It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s days until Christmas.
And December 23 – a Monday, this year – caps the worst week of the year when it comes to motor-vehicle accidents, and the second-worst single day. The top spots for collisions? Shopping malls.
(The lowest total comes just two days later, on Christmas Day. The single worst day is Dec. 14, according to a decade of data obtained obtained from the City of Toronto under access-to-information laws.)
Interactive calendar: Hover over a day for the average number of accidents
Part of the explanation may be the level of traffic before Christmas, says McMaster University geography professor Niko Yiannakoulias.
“There might very well be more activity. The more people that are driving, the more trips, the more accidents there are, generally speaking.”
This would help explain the lulls in the accident data during the March break and the summer, and the steady increase after the beginning of September.
The accident data for December 23 bears out the Christmas shopping connection: The top collision location for that date is the Scarborough Town Centre, followed by the Dufferin Mall.
For the week, the Yorkdale Mall has the #1 spot, followed by Scarborough Town Centre and Sherway Gardens. Fairview Mall comes in at #6.
“When you look at this time of year, there’s last-minute shopping and rushing around and the trend is go, go, go,” Const. Hugh Smith of Toronto police told Global’s Mark Carcasole. “If you have that frequency, that urgency, that attitude of people rushing around, then you’re more apt to get into a collision or some kind of situation.”
Drivers getting used to winter weather are another factor, Yiannakoulias says.
“The literature would suggest that there’s an adaptation time – they adapt, and things stabilize again. Usually, there’s a bit of a shock period. One or two days is all you need, and you change your behavior as a driver. Drivers in the first snow are particularly bad.”
The data also shows a connection to natural light levels.
(Pedestrian accidents peak earlier in the year, in late November.)
A British study found that December 17 was the worst day for car accidents there; in California, it was December 15.