It's Friday 13th today, the most cursed day in the calendar in Western superstition - allegedly - where everything is fated to go wrong. But why the day is considered to be so unlucky? Let's have a look.
The fear of the number 13 has been given a scientific name: "triskaidekaphobia"; and on analogy to this the fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, from the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning "Friday"), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning "thirteen").
The superstition surrounding this day may have arisen in the Middle Ages, "originating from the story of Jesus' last supper and crucifixion" in which there were 13 individuals present in the Upper Room on the 13th of Nisan Maundy Thursday, the night before his death on Good Friday.
While there is evidence of both Friday and the number 13 being considered unlucky, there is no record of the two items being referred to as especially unlucky in conjunction before the 19th century.
A suggested origin of the superstition—Friday, 13 October 1307, the date Philip IV of France arrested hundreds of the Knights Templar—may not have been formulated until the 20th century.
According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day, making it the most feared day and date in history.
Some people are so paralyzed by fear that they avoid their normal routines in doing business, taking flights or even getting out of bed. "It's been estimated that $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day".
Despite this, representatives for both Delta Air Lines and now-defunct Continental Airlines have stated that their airlines do not suffer from any noticeable drop in travel on those Fridays.
In Finland, a consortium of governmental and nongovernmental organizations led by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health promotes the National Accident Day to raise awareness about automotive safety, which always falls on a Friday the 13th.
A study in the British Medical Journal, published in 1993, concluded that there "is a significant level of traffic-related incidences on Friday the 13th as opposed to a random day, such as Friday the 6th, in the UK."
However, the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics on 12 June 2008 stated that "fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday than on other Fridays, because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home.
Statistically speaking, driving is slightly safer on Friday the 13th, at least in the Netherlands; in the last two years, Dutch insurers received reports of an average 7,800 traffic accidents each Friday; but the average figure when the 13th fell on a Friday was just 7,500."
So, stop worrying and enjoy your Friday long drives.