Abstract

Among the various types of mortality, motor vehicle fatalities (MVF) and suicides are two that are very responsive to social, economic, and psychological factors. The analysis of the temporal patterns of suicides and MVF points to important but neglected forces affecting them. This paper examines the daily patterns of MVF and suicides for the United States from 1972 to 1976. The effects of the day of the week, month, year, and holidays on these types of mortality are estimated. Total MVF and suicides, as well as daily differentials by sex, age, and race, are analyzed with regression techniques. The results show that temporal variations are stronger in MVF than in suicides but are present in both. MVF tend to peak on Saturday, in the summer months, in 1972 and 1973, and on holidays. Suicides are generally highest on Monday, in the spring months, in 1975 and 1976, and on nonholidays. Differentials in the temporal patterns are evident. For instance, whites generally have a sharper decline in suicides on holidays than do nonwhites. The holiday peak in MVF for the 60 and over population is Christmas, while it is New Year’s for the younger age groups. Males exhibit a greater increase in suicides from March to May than do females. Finally, the results of a comparison of the daily patterns of MVF and suicides revealed a negative correlation. This contrasted with the strong positive relationship between MVF and suicides generally found in cross-sectional studies. The implications of these findings are briefly discussed.

This content is only available as a PDF.

References

Adams, James Ray (
1970
).
Personality Variables Associated with Traffic Accidents
.
Behavioral Research in Highway Safety
,
1
,
3
18
.
Bohrnstedt, George W. (
1969
).
Observations on the Measurement of Change
. In Borgatta, E. F. (Ed.),
Sociological Methodology 1969
(pp.
113
133
).
San Francisco
:
Jossey-Bass
.
Bollen, Kenneth A., & Phillips, David P. (
1981
).
Suicidal Motor Vehicle Fatalities in Detroit: A Replication
.
American Journal of Sociology
,
87
,
404
412
. 10.1086/227464
Haight, Frank A. (
1967
).
Some Comparisons Between Traffic Death and Suicide
.
General Systems
,
12
,
117
136
.
Henry, Andrew F., & Short, James F. (
1964
).
Suicide and Homicide
.
London
:
The Free Press
.
Johnston, J. (
1972
).
Econometric Methods
.
New York
:
McGraw-Hill
.
Kevan, Simon M. (
1980
).
Perspectives on Season of Suicide: A Review
.
Social Science and Medicine
,
14
,
369
378
.
MacDonald, John M. (
1964
).
Suicide and Homicide by Automobile
.
American Journal of Psychiatry
,
121
,
366
370
.
Motor Vehicle Facts & Figures ’78
. (
1978
).
Detroit
:
MVMA
.
Phillips, David P. (
1974
).
The Influence of Suggestion on Suicide: Substantive and Theoretical Implications of the Werther Effect
.
American Sociological Review
,
39
,
340
354
. 10.2307/2094294
Phillips, David P. (
1977
).
Motor Vehicle Fatalities Increase Just After Publicized Suicide Stories
.
Science
,
196
,
1464
1465
. 10.1126/science.867044
Phillips, David P., & Liu., Judith (
1980
).
The Frequency of Suicides Around Major Public Holidays: Some Surprising Findings
.
Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior
,
10
,
41
50
.
Porterfleld, Austin L. (
1960
).
Traffic Fatalities, Suicide, and Homicide
.
American Sociological Review
,
25
,
897
901
. 10.2307/2089987
Roberts, Robert E., & McBee, George W. (
1968
).
The Social Ecology of Violent Death in a Metropolitan Community
.
Houston, Tex.
:
Baylor University, College of Medicine
.
Selzer, Melvin L., & Payne, Charles E. (
1962
).
Automobile Accidents, Suicide and Unconscious Motivation
.
American Journal of Psychiatry
,
119
,
237
240
.
Waldron, Ingrid, & Eyer, Joseph (
1975
).
Socioeconomic Causes of the Recent Rise in Death Rates for 15–24 Year Olds
.
Social Science and Medicine
,
9
,
383
396
. 10.1016/0037-7856(75)90139-0
Wenz, Friedrick V. (
1977
).
Effects of Seasons and Sociological Variables on Suicidal Behavior
.
Public Health Reports
,
92
,
233
239
.
Wyzga, Ronald E. (
1978
).
The Effect of Air Pollution Upon Mortality: A Consideration of Distributed Lag Models
.
Journal of the American Statistical Association
,
73
,
463
472
. 10.2307/2286581