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Personal Injury

Nothing spooky about motorcycle crashes on a full moon

Motorcyclists should step up their nighttime riding safety precautions after a study linked full moons to an increased risk of fatal crashes, Kitchener litigation lawyer Graham Bennett tells

According to a National Post report, researchers found the risk of death spiked about five per cent during a full moon.

The danger was even greater during a supermoon, a natural phenomenon which makes the moon appear much larger in the sky, with the study finding fatalities were 27 per cent more likely under those conditions.

Despite the traditional link between full moons and the occult, Bennett, a civil litigation specialist and partner with Giffen Lawyers LLP, says he’s not convinced it had any bearing on these results.

“When you break down the facts there’s likely nothing 'supernatural’ about it,” he says.

“It’s harder to see, and to be seen, at night. And a full moon, when obscured by trees or clouds, can suddenly become visible to a motorcyclist and represent an unavoidable distraction,” says Bennett, a keen motorcyclist.

The increased light available under a full moon can also give riders a false sense of security, causing them to increase their speed, he says. But he points out that the link between speed and fatality is an exponential one, meaning a small boost in velocity can drive a big surge in the risk of death.

“Many of us who love to ride our motorcycles are aware of the risk-to-reward ratio, but will always want to do what we can to decrease the risk factor,” Bennett says. “When motorcyclists are driving at night and there is a full moon, they should be especially mindful of a measurable increase in risk, and stay alert and aware of their surroundings.”

The researchers who conducted the study looked at more than 13,000 fatal crashes in the U.K., United States, Canada and Australia, and found that the typical subject was a 32-year-old riding a street motorcycle with a large engine in a rural location, who experienced a head-on frontal impact and was not wearing a helmet.

“It’s still hard to believe that in this day and age motorcyclists choose not to wear a helmet,” Bennett says.

While technology such as air-bags, lane-assist and obstacle avoidance has vastly improved the safety of other vehicles, Bennett says engineering advances have been more limited for motorcycles.

“Wearing a helmet and appropriate riding gear is one significant thing motorcyclists can do to improve their odds of surviving a ‘bad day’ on the road,” he says.

The authors of the study, based out of the University of Toronto and Princeton University, wrote that previous research indicated three factors most likely to distract attention: a large object, brightness and an abrupt onset. All three are characteristics of a full moon, they noted.

“Beyond these, a full moon might contribute to increased outdoor activity of all types, including more frequent travel, faster speeds, longer distances, unfamiliar routes, added cross traffic and mixtures of less experienced travellers,” the authors added in their paper.

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