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Is It More Dangerous to Drive on Friday the 13th?

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VW Bug from Friday the 13th Part II

Scene from Friday the 13th Part II
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Of all the prevailing superstitions out there, the belief that the number 13 is unlucky–or that Friday the 13th is a day for misfortune–is one of the most prevalent. Some people won’t leave the house or close a business deal on the 13th, and others outright avoid everything to do with the number, such as when building owners avoid granting access to the 13th floor of a building.

Similarly, some might feel averse to driving on that notorious day (or if they’re in a movie, their car might simply refuse to start!). But is it more dangerous to drive on Friday the 13th? According to most serious studies on the subject, the answer is no. Surprise!

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There is No Such Thing as Supernatural Bad Luck

It shouldn’t take an in-depth study to tell us this, but it’s true that we can influence what happens around us—or rather, our perception of what happens—simply by having a different mindset.

For example, people who truly believe they are unlucky—more so than one might expect from random chance—are not actually unlucky but pessimistic, and likely causing themselves to miss out on opportunities to be lucky because of their negative attitude.

In the same vein, drivers who expect bad things to happen on the road on Friday the 13th might be directly influencing events on that day because they think something bad might happen.

In fact, the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, estimates that a whopping 17-21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of Friday the 13th, and enough of them are willing not to show up to work on that day that it costs the American economy up to $900 million. So there’s definitely an impact of some kind.

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The Statistics Vary On Both Sides

What about car impacts? Actual Friday the 13th traffic statistics vary. Research published in the British Medical Journal in 1990 claimed a 52% increase in admittances to the hospital from road accidents on Friday the 13th, and a UK insurance company found a higher-than-average number of claims for car accidents on that date.

However, it should be noted that Friday is already the most dangerous driving day in general, and that the researchers behind the British Medical Journal admitted that the sample size was too small to be conclusive. Furthermore, according to the Automotive Club of California, there were no more deaths on Friday the 13th from 2002 to 2009 than comparable Fridays, and a study carried out by the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics found that that driving on Friday the 13th was actually safer than normal because of all the people avoiding the roads.

In conclusion, it doesn’t seem more or less dangerous to drive on Friday the 13th than on any other Friday, even for those who have friggatriskaidekaphobia—try that for your word of the day.

Just do all the things you would normally do while behind the wheel—drive carefully, pay attention, wear your seatbelt, and don’t use your phone—and you should be good to go regardless of the date.

Sources: The Guardian, Telegraph, and AIG