Christmas is over and it’s a wonder we’re alive.
Maybe you’re like me, gliding merrily through the holiday season, filled with joy, love for your fellow human, hope for better days ahead etc. And then you learn that the holiday time is actually a time when we should have our heads on a swivel. There is danger lurking, well, everywhere. It lurks on our roads and on our front porches, in our holiday decorations and in our toilets, for starters. An outfit called insuranceQuotes.com says so . And Datacember, not wanting to be accused of sugarcoating the world of data, is ready to join iQ and look at the dark side of the holiday season. Or dark sides , for there are many. You know that saying, “What could possibly go wrong?” You’re going to wish it remained a rhetorical question after a quick trip through iQs data, which was gathered by Princeton Survey Research Association International. The research firm polled 1,000 American adults for the online insurance shopping site. Let’s start with decking the halls. Did you know that 2 million people have experienced a house fire caused by troubles with Christmas trees or other decorations? Yep. And in some ways they’re the lucky ones. They at least got their trees home in one piece. You see, another 52 million Americans have gotten into car accidents because of snow, ice or rain. (How many had Christmas trees on top remains unknown.) Add that to the 30 million who’ve gotten into an accident because of heavy traffic, 21 million who crashed because they were speeding and 5 million involved in a wreck because they drank before getting behind the wheel, insuranceQuotes says. Trees and decorations aren’t the only fire-starters in the yuletide season. About 16 million have experienced a house fire because of a cooking mishap and the National Fire Protection Association points out that the top three days for fires caused by candles are Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. And you know how you always look forward to gathering family and friends together during the holidays to catch up, wish each other well and take a moment or two to remind each other how important you are in each others’ lives? Bad idea. iQ says more than 7 million Americans have had a guest injured in their homes. And a whopping 47 million have experienced a sewer backup during the holiday season, the survey says. The iQ report chalks the plumbing problems up to what it delicately calls “the strain such gatherings can put on a home’s infrastructure.” At least the plumbers get to celebrate . Datacember has kept an eye on e-commerce throughout the month and this dark side report is not about to stop that now. It turns out, that along with the steady growth of e-commerce orders, comes a steady growth of people getting ripped off by what iQ calls “porch pirates,” thieves who steal packages from in front of homes before they even get inside. The online insurance brokerage says 23 million Americans have had their booty stolen that way. By now you’re saying: Well yes. The world is a dangerous place and now I know what to be thankful for — that Thanksgiving and the rest are over — but where’s our lesson? I read Datacember for a morsel of data knowledge. Bring it! OK, here goes: Notice how insuranceQuote and the Princeton survey polled 1,000 people, but found that millions and millions had had bad things happen to them? How did they do that? Well, it turns out they applied the findings from their sample to the population at large. (“Numbers are derived from the most recent census figure (2010), showing 234.6 million Americans are ages 18-plus.”) It can be a reasonable way to look at the world, but it can also give one a warped sense of danger. (Not that the insurance industry would stand for such a thing.) To see what I mean, look at the findings another way — another way, to be fair, that insuranceQuote also presented on its site.
Consider the data concerning bad things happening to good people, broken down into percentages in the above SlideShare. Percentage of those who’ve had a package stolen: 10. Percentage of those who’ve had a fire caused by a Christmas tree: 1. You get the picture. Maybe we didn’t dodge as many bullets as we thought in the holiday season past. Then again, there’s still New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Just saying. Photo of Santa toilet seat cover by Jason Eppink published under Creative Commons license. Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Contact him at email@example.com ; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.