Tag Archive: lightning

Road Rage!

(Submitted by Skepticality listener Michael Farese.

I have less of a story and more of a question. My girlfriend is from New Jersey and has a very, um, animated personality. While driving, she often gives people certain gestures, honks, flashes headlights, etc.

I always tell her that she needs to be careful and that she shouldn’t do things like that because there are crazy people out there who might try to run her off the road (or worse) in a fit of road rage. She tells me that I’m being ridiculous and that she has a better chance of getting struck by lightning.

My question is: does she have a better chance of getting struck by lightning? Am I worrying about something that has only a negligible statistical chance of occurring?

Looking forward to some insight!

Below are the extended notes provided by cognitive psychologist and statistician Barbara Drescher for use in Skepticality Episode 243.  Take a look and leave your comments below. Also, please be sure to listen to the podcast for our own hilarious commentary. Also, visit Barbara’s blog.

Hmmm…. Well, finding statistics about road rage is difficult, mostly because the definition of “road rage” is fuzzy. However, after looking at several different sources, I believe it’s safe to say that it seriously injures or kills around 1500 people in the U.S. per year, and that doesn’t include incidents in which only minor injuries or property damage are involved.

By contrast, the number of people who are injured by lightning in the U.S. each year is fewer than 300. On average, the number killed is 33.

Several websites echoed this sentiment written in About News:

“Statistics tell us that most all of us have been involved in an aggressive driving experience either as the victim or the aggressor at some point in our lives.”

Yet the lifetime chances of being struck by lightning at some point in one’s life are about 1 in 12,000. So I’d go with the author on this one.

(Submitted by reader Chad Simonds)

This is not a story about something that happened to me, nor a third person account; but I think it’s a worthy topic nonetheless.

I’m a runner who lives in Florida.  During the summer months it is just too hot and humid to go running when the sun is out, so I’ve taken to running only during thunderstorms. I understand that the odds of being struck by lightning are very minute, but I’m wondering how those odds are actually calculated.

Does the currently understood odds of being struck by lightning take into account how much time one spends outside during a thunderstorm (which is presumably less time than when it’s not raining)?  If I am effectively seeking out thunderstorms, are the odds of being struck by lightning significantly greater, or are the odds still so low that I’m not really in any danger?

[Editor: Although this is a great question for The Odds Must Be Crazy, my immediate thought was about the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and the short clips of the roomer in the boarding house who was struck by lightning seven times. The odds turn out to be not so crazy!


Also – evidently being struck by lightning is not to be taken – lightly. It is the second leading weather related cause of death, after floods. According to one source, 400 people are struck by lightning in the US annually, and sixty lose their lives.

Florida is the number one state, leading the deaths by lightning at 126 from 1990-2003. If a thunder storm starts when you are out running – get inside a car or building, stay away from tall conductive objects, or curl up in a ball, making yourself as small a target as possible. –  Wendy]