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I encountered the following claim:

Picture of claim

  • The chances of you dying on the way to get your lottery tickets is greater than your chances of winning

Of course, whether is is true depends on the lottery, on the demographics of participants in the lottery, on their method of transportation, the duration of transportation, and probably on other factors as well. However, if we take into account the age distribution of lottery participants, their method of transportation to the lottery, and statistics on the chance of winning the lottery (let's say a reasonably big prize), considering a developed, urbanised country, can we make any estimates whether this claim could be remotely true?

Related question (which actually includes a similar claim in the question):

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Also depends what you mean by "winning the lottery". Do you only count the jackpot or lesser winnings too? –  vartec Oct 4 '12 at 10:09
    
True, it of course depends on that as well. Hence "let's say a reasonably big prize". –  gerrit Oct 4 '12 at 12:15

1 Answer 1

up vote 15 down vote accepted

This looks to be plausible, at least for the UK National Lottery Jackpot.

The chances of winning the Jackpot in the UK National Lottery are 1 in 13,983,815. The chances of dying on the way depends on the length of journey and the transport used. Number of Deaths for various forms of transport are listed in Reported Road Casualties Great Britain: annual report 2011 along with the number of miles travelled using that form of transport:

  • Cycling - 107 deaths in 3.1 billion miles (1 death every 29 million miles)
  • Motorcycling - 362 deaths in 2.9 billion miles (1 death every 8.0 million miles)
  • Driving Car - 613 deaths in 241 billion miles (1 death every 393 million miles)

If your journey exceeds the following lengths, then you are more likely to die than win:

  • Cycling - 2.1 miles
  • Motorcycling - 0.57 miles
  • Driving - 28 miles
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To be fair, most (if not all) people drive less than that to buy their lottery ticket, except maybe the motorcyclist. –  Konrad Rudolph Oct 4 '12 at 13:22
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This takes into account only accidental death. just based off of a 365.24 day year and an 80 year potential life span you have statistically 1:29219 chance of dying on any given day. If you take into account you have to be 18 to buy a ticket it leaves a 62 year span for potential death which brings it to 1:22645 –  Chad Oct 4 '12 at 13:30
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@KonradRudolph not sure about the UK, but in the Netherlands the grand prize(s?) of the national lottery have to be picked up in person at the company's headquarter, which for many can be a trip of 100+ miles either way. –  jwenting Oct 4 '12 at 13:41
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What is or isn't recorded as a Road Casualty turns out to be quite complicated - assets.dft.gov.uk/statistics/series/road-accidents-and-safety/… –  Tom77 Oct 4 '12 at 13:57
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Which is why I make sure not to make an extra trip to get the lottery ticket. If I'm already at the store anyway, eg. to get groceries, then I have not added any (measureable) risk buy simply purchasing a lottery ticket as well. If you make an extra trip to the store, I could see how this might be true, but most people are at the store anyway, and not making any extra trips. Also, if you travel by bike, you are getting exercise, which reduces your chances of many other kinds of death, meaning cycling probably increases your lifespan even though you are less safe than sitting on your couch. –  Kibbee Oct 6 '12 at 1:54

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