The mysterious and sometimes mythical effects of the full moon are well documented in folklore, but some of these superstitions and legends are actually supported by science. The cycles of the moon and its gravity have profound effects on the natural world, influencing tidal patterns and the migrations of many animals. A new study out of Princeton University shows that the strange and sometimes unexpected effects of the full moon might be more profound than we think. Princeton behavioral scientists analyzed incidences of motorcycle deaths with lunar calendars and discovered a strange link between full moons and motorcycle fatalities. Cosmological mystery, or a simple case of user error? You decide.
The research was recently published in The BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal). The authors examined traffic fatality data involving motorcycles from the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Australia. When the dates of these fatal crashes were cross-referenced with dates of full moons, the researchers found that fatal motorcycle accidents occurred 5% more than on nights without a full moon. When there was a supermoon in the skies, the incidence of accidents went up 32%.
Donald Redelmeier, professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto and one of the authors, says that even though a 5% increase doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s still statistically significant enough to draw a link:
While these figures might seem low on the surface, they are quite significant. All of these deaths could have been prevented completely by small difference in behavior. Glancing at the full moon takes the motorcyclist’s gaze off the road, which could result in a loss of control.
While it’d be a lot cooler if some kind of black magick or strange lunacy was at play, the truth is that these accidents are likely caused by people staring at the moon while they drive as opposed to watching what they’re doing. Isn’t that pretty neat on its own too though? It’s still a case of the full moon altering human behavior, with fatal results. Isn’t that what all the old full moon folklore is about?