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Big Games Lead to Big Car Crashes for Sports Fans

Sports fans love a good game. When their team plays in an important game against a rival or in a playoff, and wins in a close contest, the fans' adrenaline levels shoot way up.

One of the results of this euphoria is an increased danger of car accidents. A new study has found that sports fans who witness a big win by their team are far more likely to be involved in a dangerous car accident. Shortly after big games, fatal car crashes increased around the sites of the big games, and increased even more in the winning teams' home towns.

Car accidents neither increased nor decreased in the losing teams' home towns.

The authors of the study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, wrote, pithily, "While some sports junkies will be quick to tell you they live and die by whether their favorite sports team wins, there may be more truth in their statements than they know."

The study examined more than 250 major professional and college sporting events over 8 years. The contests they looked at were highly anticipated. Sometimes final scores don't reflect the intensity of the game, so the researchers asked fans to rate the intensity of the experience from 1 to 5. The lowest score was 1, for a boring game, and 5 was the highest, for an extremely close contest.

Using data from the National Highway Safety Administration, the researchers found a correlation between close games and fatal crashes. In fact, Miami car accident attorneys noted that the research found that the closer the games, the higher the rate of deadly car accidents.

For each full point increase in the intensity of the game, the researchers found a 21% increase in fatalities near the game location, and found a 29% increase in fatalities in the winning team's home town.

The researchers speculated that either alcohol or testosterone accounted for much of the increase in poor driving, and further speculated that testosterone was the primary force driving fans to speed or engage in other reckless driving behaviors.

The researchers suggested using school songs or players' speeches to encourage fans to stay in the arena for a cooling off period after a big game. They also said fans should consider their emotional state if they are going to drive after a big game, and be aware of the dangers of vehicle crashes. 

Source: MSNBC "The thrill of victory, the agony of the car crash" 4/25/2011

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