Driving under the influence (of stress): Regional effects of 9/11 attacks on driving

Feb 02, 2009

The September 11 terrorist attacks had a profound impact on this country's psyche. Eight years after the attacks, we are still learning how those terrible events affected us. A number of studies have shown that people who lived closest to the sites of the terrorist attacks experienced heightened levels of stress and anxiety in the months following the September 11 attacks. Research has also indicated that elevated levels of stress can greatly impact day-to-day behaviors such as driving.

Psychologist Alexander J. Rothman and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota analyzed records obtained from the US Department of Transportation to see if there was any relation between geographic location and the rate of fatal traffic accidents that occurred in the three months immediately following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Statistical analysis of the data yielded a number of interesting findings, which are reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The authors found that there was an increase in the rate of traffic fatalities in the three months following the 9/11 attacks, but only in the Northeast, the region closest to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. A follow-up analysis showed that there was a significant increase in the rate of traffic fatalities in the months following September 11 in the state of New York. This pattern of findings is consistent with the premise that stress-related reductions in the quality of driving led to a spike in the rate of fatal traffic accidents.

In addition, the authors analyzed the traffic records to see if there was an increase in the rate of fatal traffic accidents involving drugs or alcohol. Compared to the same time period in the previous year, there was a 100 percentage point increase in the rate of drug- and alcohol-related fatal traffic accidents in the Northeast.

The findings suggest that being close to the location of a traumatic event, such as the 9/11 attacks, may increase psychological stress, which may, in turn, impair one's driving ability and thus lead to an increase in fatal traffic accidents. The authors note that in this study, they "demonstrated the importance of considering various potential causes of behavioral changes after terrorist events occur." They conclude that "in general, thinking more theoretically about factors that shape people's responses to stressful events should help researchers anticipate behavioral reactions to terrorism."

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Explore further: Majority of homeless adults with mental illness have high rates of cognitive deficits

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Solving the Hox Specificity Paradox

26 minutes ago

The remarkable diversity of anatomical features along the body axis of animals—the differences between the head, the thorax and the abdomen, for example—is determined by proteins in the Hox family. But ...

Privacy is dead, Davos hears

34 minutes ago

Imagine a world where mosquito-sized robots fly around stealing samples of your DNA. Or where a department store knows from your buying habits that you're pregnant even before your family does.

Massive chip design savings to be realized

36 minutes ago

IT researchers working at the University of Twente have developed a programming language making the massive costs associated with designing hardware more manageable. Chip manufacturers have been using the ...

Does acupuncture help pets?

36 minutes ago

Like any other type of medical therapy, acupuncture is not magic: It is a mode of therapy that has both applications and limitations. I don't like to say that acupuncture treats disease, because so many people associate the ...

Recommended for you

Appraisal of stressful or threatening situations by the brain

4 minutes ago

Researchers at the Research Center Translational Neurosciences of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in Germany have advanced a generalized concept as the basis for future studies of mental resilience. Their new approach ...

Would you tell your manager you had a mental health problem?

22 hours ago

Although nearly four in 10 workers wouldn't tell their manager if they had a mental health problem, half said that if they knew about a coworker's illness, they would desire to help, a new survey by the Centre for Addiction ...

Stress during pregnancy related to infant gut microbiota

23 hours ago

Women who experience stress during pregnancy are likely to have babies with a poor mix of intestinal microbiota and with a higher incidence of intestinal problems and allergic reactions. This could be related to psychological ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.