More fatal motorbike crashes take place on nights where there is a full moon, a study has found.
It is believed motorcyclists face a hazard from the moon appearing suddenly from behind a building or over a hill.
Experts say they are distracted by ‘wonderment’ which could cause them to make the fatal mistake of taking their eyes off the road.
A study analysing fatal collisions over three decades in the UK, United States, Canada and Australia, found an additional crash for every two nights with a full moon.
More fatal motorbike crashes take place on nights where there is a full moon, a study has found
On nights with a ‘supermoon’, which appears larger because it is closer to Earth, the chance of motorcyclists dying is even higher.
The study authors, led by Dr Donald Redelmeier at the University of Toronto, highlight the importance of constant attention when riding, especially during a full moon.
They state: ‘Additional strategies while riding might include wearing a helmet, activating headlights, scanning the road surface for defects, respecting the weather, being wary of left turning vehicles, obeying traffic laws and forgoing stunts.’
Researchers suggest that momentary distraction is a common contributor to road deaths, which for motorcyclists most often involved middle-aged men experiencing a head-on frontal crash while not wearing a helmet. Full moons, which occur about 12 times a year, are such a distraction.
Data from the official US registry of motor vehicle crashes for 1975 to 2014 showed, overall, 4,494 fatal crashes occurred on the 494 nights with a full moon – equal to 9.10 a night on average.
On nights without a full moon, there were an average of only 8.64 a night.
It is believed motorcyclists face a hazard from the moon appearing suddenly from behind a building or over a hill (file photo)
Similar results were found for Britain, where 309 fatal motorcycle crashes out of 1,414 took place on nights with a full moon.
The researchers say the moon’s large size, brightness and abrupt appearance behind hills or past road corners, were most likely to distract road users.
They state: ‘We hypothesized that because people’s attention is naturally drawn to a full moon, it might contribute to fatal motorcycle crashes.
‘In particular, glancing at a full moon takes the motorcyclist’s gaze off the road, which could result in a loss of control. A full moon might also lead to changes in surrounding traffic behaviours, such as distracting other motorists or pedestrians from noticing an oncoming motorcycle.’
The study, carried out by the University of Toronto and Princeton University, is published in the BMJ.