It's Friday 13th: stay off the road!

Researchers have found you're more likely to be in an accident today

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Rush hour on the A38(M)urban motorway at Aston, Birmingham, UK.

The logical and rational approach to Friday 13th is to remember that superstitions are ridiculous, and that there's no reason at all to be concerned about something as silly as a date. There's no reason to worry about some sort of disaster striking, just as there's no need to stress out if you walk under a ladder or a black cat crosses your path.

... except research has revealed that Friday 13th may be more dangerous for drivers after-all.

The study came from Aviva, the UK's largest insurer, which analysed 10 years of claims data and found that motor collision claims increase by an average of 13% on Friday 13th, compared to other days in the same month.

This unlucky day spookily sees more bumps and shunts than normal - no matter what time of year Friday 13th falls on – be it a cold winter, rainy spring or sunny summer. Heather Smith, marketing director of general insurance at Aviva said: "While we don't wish to cause a bout of friggatriskaidekaphobia(fear of Friday the 13th) among the population, we hope these figures will help encourage people to take extra care today, whatever they might be doing."

Why?

Those people who insist on touching something black or saluting whenever they see a magpie may be inclined to feel a little smug at this news - and there are plenty of them.

Around two-thirds of people admit to holding some superstitious beliefs. The top five are:

1) Using the phrase 'touch wood' to try to stop anything bad from happening - 50%
2) Avoiding walking under ladders - 43%
3) Avoiding opening an umbrella indoors - 36%
4) Refusing to put new shoes on the table - 30%
5) Believing that Friday 13th is unlucky - 26%

But if we assume that there's nothing inherently risky about Friday 13th, it begs the question as to why there are so many more accidents, and there are a number of possible explanations.

The first is that it's purely random: if you look at the probability of an accident happening on any specific day, then the random distribution of accidents will naturally ensure that some days see more accidents than others. The fact that Friday 13th is one of these days is pure co-incidence.

The second explanation is that on Friday 13th part of our brain is occupied with worrying about the fact that it's Friday 13th. It means we are more likely to get distracted on the road and cause an accident. Some 21% of people told Admiral that they were more likely to be cautious on Friday 13th, and streets full of hesitant and worried drivers are hardly exactly safe streets.

In that case, the worst possible thing you can do is read something reinforcing your beliefs - like the Aviva research - which could then become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you are paralysed by friggatriskaidekaphobia, it's worth bearing in mind that despite the fact that Gocompare.com found that 9% of people would actively avoid buying a number plate with the number 13 in it - Admiral found that those driving the 13 number plate had the lowest rates of accidents of any new cars in the last ten years.

But what do you think? Do you drive on Friday 13th?