Did you know that you’re more likely to get struck by lightning than be? Honestly, you probably did. Statistics like that are thrown around constantly, both online and in the real world. Plus, a quick Google search of that claim proves not only is it true—1 in 500,000 for lightning versus 1 in 3.75 million for a shark attack—but also there are nearly 10 million search results about it! So there’s no stat surprise there. Plenty of people know and search for that one!
But plenty of other statistics are both mind-blowing and far less covered online. If you’ve ever had something extremely unlikely happen to you or heard about an incredibly rare event happening to a friend, then this list is for you. If you’ve ever seen something strange occur and asked yourself, “What are the odds of that?” then this list is for you. If you simply can’t believe how statisticians can quantify unlikely events and put a number on a proverbial lotto ticket, then this list is for you.
Here are ten shocking stats you never expected to see laid out and quantified!
10 Fireworks Fail!
We all hear about fireworks injuries on July 4th every single year. Worried parents tell their kids to be careful with sparklers and anything that goes “boom!” Then, most of the kids promptly don’t listen and set off whatever they can get their hands on. Ah, Independence Day! Where America really (literally) shines, right? But of course, reckless fun aside, fireworks can cause some serious damage.
In 2022 alone, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 10,000 Americans were rushed to emergency rooms to have doctors care for fireworks-related injuries. The vast majority of those incidents involved serious burns, while the most severe of them included severed fingers and other appendages. Plus, sadly, eleven people were killed in the United States in fireworks-related mishaps that year—which is not zero! So it does happen. Maybe Mom and Dad were right to demand safety…
Anyway, the Florida Museum of Natural History decided to take a look at fireworks and the chances you’ll be killed by an explosion in your lifetime. They were trying to compare the data to shark attacks—which are also very rare—and make the point that it’s more likely you’ll be felled by these festive explosions. Neither death is particularly likely, but at least they were able to come up with a number. Per that organization, your chances of being killed in a fireworks accident are 1 in 340,773. That’s very, very small, but it’s not nothing. Besides, there’s no need to lose a finger or two trying to prove to yourself that you can cheat death when July 4th rolls around next summer.
9 Airplane Death Dearth
Obviously, every time an airplane crashes, it makes the news. It’s tragic enough when private planes go down, and it’s even more horrific to think about a commercial jet carrying hundreds of people falling from the sky. After all, the likelihood of you surviving a 30,000-foot plunge at high speed isn’t very good. But fear not because it’s incredibly unlikely that you will ever be in that situation in the first place.
We’re not kidding about that; the stat here is “null.” Every year, the National Safety Council publishes statistics that inform Americans how likely they are to die in various ways. In 2021, the most common death option was heart disease (1 in 6) and cancer (1 in 7). Meanwhile, the least common ways to die were via dog attacks (1 in 53,843) and bee stings (1 in 54,516).
As for plane crashes, the answer about its likelihood is… not. No, really! The NSC notes that there were “too few deaths in 2021 to calculate odds” of dying in a plane crash. As in, there literally isn’t enough data to even give odds. So, saying your chances of dying in a plane crash are small is underselling it a bit!
Interestingly, in previous years, the NSC has been able to forecast the probability that you could be felled while riding in an airplane. In 2018, for example, that outfit determined your chances of dying in a jet accident were 1 in 205,552. But again, those are incredibly small odds, even when they are actually calculable. There’s not (as) much to worry about with plane problems. Hopefully, this will make you calm enough to enjoy flying the friendly skies the next time you’re due for a trip!
8 Sharks Shooting Their Shot
Well, we’ve danced around it for the first few items on this list. Why don’t we take it on now? After all, this is the primary question most people have when queries about the various low odds of unlikely events come up in conversation. So we’ll answer it now: The chances that you will be attacked by a shark in your lifetime are very, very (very, very, very) low. Like, far lower than anything else on this list and far lower than nearly any other adverse event that you can reasonably think up as possibly happening to the Average Joe.
According to the International Wildlife Museum, the chances that you will be attacked by a shark during your life sit somewhere around 1 in 3.75 million. That’s an absurdly low number when you think about how many people spend much time in the ocean and at the beach. Even if you’re one of those lucky few who enjoys riding the waves every now and then, you really don’t have to worry too much about an attack.
Other sources cite even less likely numbers when it comes to shark attacks. Take the date from the International Shark Attack File, for instance. That outfit found that the likelihood of a human being attacked by a shark is actually 1 in 11.5 million—so nearly three times less likely than the already extremely unlikely data mentioned previously. Either way, those are big numbers with plenty of zeros at the end. And the point of them is this: You really don’t have much to fear when you’re wading knee-deep in the ocean the next time you visit Hawaii.
7 Toilet Trauma!
Hopefully, you’ve never been injured by your toilet. But if you did a double-take reading that sentence (“Of course, I’ve never been injured by my toilet,” you say to yourself), you have to understand that a lot of people actually are felled by the porcelain throne. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control meticulously studies these things (you know, for science) and has actually come up with the numbers for how likely it is that you’ll experience toilet trauma.
According to that Atlanta-based health organization, roughly 22.5 toilet injuries annually occur per 100,000 people in the United States. That’s approximately a 1 in 10,000 chance you’ll be injured in your bathroom. (The rate of shower-related injuries is 65.8 per 100,000, by the way.) But those 22.5 incidents aren’t all equal.
Toilet injuries, which are mostly slips, falls, and other water-related and bathing-related problems, don’t happen equally across populations. Older people are far more at risk of slipping in the bathroom than spry youths. But even so, the CDC does note that 14% of toilet-related accidents nevertheless occur “when standing up from, sitting down on, or using the toilet.” So please, wipe wisely and zip up carefully!
6 Mickey D’s Monopoly Money
Everybody in the world loves to play Monopoly when it comes around at McDonald’s. The game is a fun way to build out a board full of pieces while potentially winning the grand prize of $1 million. Along the way, there is plenty of free food to be claimed and many other prizes to be won for those lucky enough to get a good draw along with their Big Mac. But what are the chances of ever really taking in seven figures from the fast food giant’s Monopoly turn? Sadly, as you can probably expect, they are very small.
One Canadian statistician once ran the numbers on this question about a decade ago. In 2014, a math-loving blogger from north of the border crunched the data and found that the chances of winning the $1 million prize in the McDonald’s Monopoly game were 1 in 451,822,158. Considering only about 330 million people live in the United States, and another 38-ish million reside in Canada, where this statistician did his work, those aren’t exactly good odds.
Other number crunchers have broken down the game into its disparate parts. After all, if the 1 in 450 million total is too daunting for you, perhaps it’d be better to focus on acquiring just the really rare game pieces. Right? Sadly, that isn’t a whole lot easier. According to other Canadian statisticians, some of the rarest McDonald’s Monopoly pieces have massively unfavorable odds, too. It’s like 1 in 4,820,076 for the Rideau Canal piece in Canada’s version of the game and 1 in 16,066,918 for Château Frontenac. Good luck!
5 Drunk Driving Data
The United States is a big place, with hundreds of millions of people here. Still, the number of drunk driving accidents that take place nationwide is staggering. According to multiple federal government agencies, roughly 37 Americans die every single day in drunk driving-related crashes. That averages out to one death every 39 minutes across the country. In 2021 alone, 13,384 people were killed in crashes that involved some level of alcohol impairment for at least one driver.
Beyond the raw numbers, though, the rates of crashes occurring at different times of day tell their own tales. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the likelihood of your car being hit by a drunk driver is actually four times higher at night than during the daytime hours. In addition, the chances of you being involved in an accident caused by a drunk driver double on the weekends compared to the weekdays. So driving around on Wednesday at noon is significantly safer than midnight on Saturday. That schedule alone won’t protect you, of course, but it’s at least a start.
4 The IRS 411
Everybody is worried about being audited by the Internal Revenue Service. Even though most of us don’t make the kind of money that we’d think would ever put us in the federal government’s crosshairs, we nevertheless worry every April about the potential of being looked into by the tax overseers. And an audit is both painful and arduous, so the very thought of having to go through it isn’t exactly ideal. Better keep all those receipts, guys!
In reality, though, the likelihood of you being audited by the IRS is very, very small. As in, you have about a 1 in 160 chance of being flagged and nabbed by the government for your tax returns if you make less than $200,000 and have a pretty straightforward financial situation. And that applies to most of us! The tricky part comes when you start making a lot more money and have more complicated business income to report. Then, your chances of an audit go up. Way up. According to Forbes, once you’re making more than $1 million per year, your chances of an audit can climb higher than 1 in 8. Yikes!
3 Come on Down!
Have you ever wanted to be a contestant on The Price Is Right? Sure, longtime host Bob Barker may have just passed away recently at 99 years old after an incredible life—and a much-loved, long-standing run helming the iconic daytime television game show. But his replacement host, Drew Carey, isn’t doing too bad with his turn on the legendary set. Fans are still flocking to Hollywood to take a shot at guessing the prices of everything from domestic items to cars and boats.
But did you know it’s actually not that unlikely that you’ll be called down to be a contestant on the show? If you get in the door, that is. According to research about the game show, fans who make it into the studio to watch a taping in the live audience have a 1 in 36 chance of being called to “come on down” to the stage. Honestly, that’s not bad!
And you can even up your chances to far better than 1 in 36 with little tricks, too. Dressing up in themed costumes, showing great positive energy to producers, and having a unique angle or a funny (and brief) backstory can all get you noticed behind the scenes prior to taping. If you can charm producers well enough in your short interview before filming takes place, your 1 in 36 shot can become much, much better! Of course, you’ve got to fly to Los Angeles, get a hotel room, grab tickets to the taping, etc. But if you’re game to do all that, your chances once you get inside the door are actually pretty good!
2 Pearl Clutching
In 2022, a New Jersey couple went out to dinner to enjoy some restaurant food together for date night when the man took a bite of a clam and felt pain. He thought he’d broken a tooth and felt something rolling around in his mouth. But when he reached inside to pull out whatever it was, he didn’t find a tooth at all. He found a pearl! Unexpectedly, the little round object he’d bitten down so hard upon turned out to be a real, authentic pearl that had washed out of the seafood they had ordered that very night. Talk about a fresh catch!
While the couple was rightly shocked at their luck and hopeful that the pearl could net them a considerable amount of money, the story quickly went viral. All over America, other restaurant goers asked themselves, “What do I have to do to get that to happen to me?” Or, perhaps more appropriately for the title of this list, they asked, “What are the odds?” Thankfully, we’re here to tell you!
According to cold, hard data, the odds of finding a pearl in an oyster range somewhere around 1 in 10,000. Of course, that’s when we’re talking about real, wild oysters that live out in the ocean. Of those un-caught creatures, only about 1 in every 10,000 will produce a pearl. And while those odds are unlikely to begin with, the number of oyster-reared pearls available to the jewelry industry is far less. Pearl seekers looking to commercialize the amazing finds reject the vast majority of wild pearls for being undesirable in size, shape, color, or a combination of the three.
1 Finding Fingers
A lot of the odds we’ve hashed out in this list have been very, very low, to say the least. We honestly don’t expect that anyone on this list will ever find a real oyster pearl, for example. And we sincerely hope (and can nearly guarantee) that none of you will die in a plane crash. Stats don’t lie! But there is at least one interesting number that, in all likelihood, someone reading this list out there across the internet has dealt with personally or seen in a friend or loved one: having extra fingers or toes.
Medically, the condition of being born with 11 fingers or toes is known as “polydactyly.” And it is shockingly common! The odds of being born with an extra digit are just 1 in 500. Yes, that’s a 0.2% chance for each baby born, but compared to lightning strikes and shark attacks, it’s an extremely common occurrence! The good news is that babies born with extra fingers or toes are completely healthy. Sometimes, the extra digits are simply an appendage. Other times, the added finger or toe is fully functional and usable. But either way, babies born with a little extra aren’t at risk for any future health issues because of it.
Experts have broken down a ton of statistics and probabilities when it comes to polydactyly stats in America, too. For example, boys and girls are roughly equally affected by the condition. But by race, the condition differs. Black babies are likelier to have an added finger on the pinky side of their hand, while White babies more often see the added digit on the thumb side. Interestingly, Black babies, in general, have a far better shot at experiencing polydactyly (1 in 143) than do White children (1 in 1,339). But whatever the race or background, it’s all usually equal after a few months. Doctors recommend babies undergo surgery to remove the extra digit before their second birthday, and that’s that.