Aria Bendix is a frequent contributor to The Atlantic, and a former editorial fellow at CityLab. Her work has appeared on Bustle and The Harvard Crimson.
Our fears end up translating into safer roads and cheaper flights.
Friday the 13th may be the most feared date of the year, but there’s actually reason to believe it’s quite lucky. Turns out, while some people around the world are busy dodging black cats and ladders, others should be thanking these superstitions for making their days a bit easier.
Superstitions surrounding the date aren’t totally unfounded. Events like the 1940 bombing of Buckingham Palace, a 1972 plane crash, the wrecking of a cruise ship, and even Tupac’s death all curiously occurred on Friday the 13th. But statistics tell a different story.
According to a number of studies, there’s actually some benefit to be had from this legend of luck lost:
It’s a cheap date to fly
It seems that airlines have actually had to deal with people’s fear of getting on a plane on this unlucky date. According to data from the travel site Kayak, domestic return flights in the U.K. on Friday the 13th cost around $85 less than the monthly average in June, making this the cheapest day of the month. Countries like France, Sweden, and Austria saw rates fall on this date as well. “The savvier option is to put aside superstition and snap up a bargain flight while others are battening down the hatches and waiting for the day to pass,” Kayak’s Managing Director Annie Wilson informed the Daily Mail. In fact, a 2013 survey from the site Travelodge found that a third of adults in the U.K. are so fearful of Friday the 13th that they’re compelled to change their travel plans (including rescheduling important meetings or working from home).
But in the U.S., the difference in rates is less pronounced: Kayak found Friday the 13th to be the sixth cheapest day of the month—only $18 cheaper than the monthly average.
There are fewer accidents
Despite superstition that Friday the 13th could increase the risk of traffic accidents, the most recent data from the University of Helsinki says that’s not the case. In fact, there’s reason to believe that since there are slightly less drivers on the road on this date, there are also fewer accidents. According to a study from car insurance company Direct Line, almost twice as many accidents occurred in the U.K. on Thursday the 12th compared to the following day.
Over in Beijing, however, a similar superstition related to the number four has had the opposite effect. The city bans the “unlucky” number 4 (which sounds a lot like the Chinese word for “death”) from its restricted zone, in turn causing a spike in traffic. Thankfully, other countries haven’t yet taken to banning the number 13 from their lanes.
Insurance claims are cheaper, fewer, and less severe
According to data from Policy Expert, a home insurance provider, home insurance claims in the U.K. on Friday the 13th are far cheaper on average than any other day of the month—roughly $1,000-$2,000 less, depending on the month. U.K. residents tend to be more cautious on this date, and their accidents are less severe, and therefore cost less. But the data also suggests that there are fewer accidents overall—nearly half the number of claims compared to the average day.
It could save you money on a house
Once more, if you’re situated in the U.K., Friday the 13th superstition could save you some money. Real estate website FindaProperty.com found that there were 43 percent fewer transactions on Friday the 13th compared to other Fridays of the month from 2005-2012.
How this data holds up in other countries is a subject for future study, but—based on the available information—it seems clear that Friday the 13th superstitions actually do influence our behavior. And our bank accounts certainly don’t seem to mind.