London: Friday the 13th has long been held as an unlucky day by the superstitious.
Medical researchers have also concluded that the day is indeed unlucky, after they noticed a dramatic spike in accidents on Friday 13th in a little-known study.
In the early 1990s, a team of medical researchers at the Mid Downs Health Authority, West Sussex, set out to prove whether people really believe that Friday 13th is unlucky - and whether they are more prone to misfortune on that day, the Telegraph reported.
They analysed reams of official statistical data on road traffic flows, supermarket occupancy rates and accident and emergency hospital admissions.
Their results, published in the British Medical Journal under the title “Is Friday the 13th bad for your health”, were startling.
They found 1.4 per cent fewer vehicles on the southern section of the M25 between Junctions 7 to 10 on Friday the 13ths between 1990 and 1992 compared to the previous week.
The weather was fairly similar each week - meaning, the researchers concluded, at least 1.4 per cent of the population “are sufficiently superstituous to alter their behaviour and refrain from driving on motorways on Friday the 13th”.
By contrast, they noted, the number of shoppers at nine Sainsbury’s supermarkets rose by 0.9 per cent - suggesting superstition did not extend to a mortal fear of slipping in the frozen good aisle.
But it was the data on emergency admissions that stunned researchers.
Despite fewer cars on the road, the number of motor accidents in the South West Thames region spiked from a total of 45 on the six Friday 6ths between 1989 and 1992, to some 65 accidents on the six Friday 13ths in the period - an increase of 52 per cent.
The researchers noted that the sample was “too small to allow meaningful analysis.”
However, the team led by Dr TJ Scanlon wrote: “Do drivers on A, B, C and D roads alter their behaviour, and in what way? Is the alteration - for example more wariness - a positive change making them more careful and thus reducing the chance of an accident? If so, Friday the 13th may indeed be a very unlucky day.
“If the change in behaviour reveals itself by increased fear and anxiety, and perhaps a sense of destiny, it may reduce concentration and increase the likelihood of an accident.
“Are people’s perceptions and beliefs self-fulfilling - if you believe something strongly enough will it in fact happen to you? While we await the answers to these difficult questions we may just have to accept that Friday the 13th is indeed unlucky for some and it might be safer to stay at home,” they added.