According to AAA and the NHTSA, Halloween is the single deadliest day of the year for child pedestrians. They are three times more likely to be struck and killed on Halloween than on any other day. Contributing factors include kids on the roads, costumes that do not reflect light, distracted driving, impaired driving and inadequate supervision, among other factors.
As a public safety advocate and personal injury attorney for 30+ years at Fennemore, I am too familiar with tragedies that result when parents, children, Halloween revelers and other drivers are not prepared for the unexpected on Halloween.
Some years ago, my wife and I were taking our two boys out to trick-or-treat in our neighborhood. We were walking in a pack crossing the street around a blind curve. It was a small, neighborhood street. As we were crossing, we heard the loud rumble of an engine. We quickly moved to a secure place on the sidewalk. As we did, a teenager in our neighborhood sped by in a hotrod, never seeing us. The lesson we learned is that the other guy will do something dangerous. It’s up to you and your children to be prepared for that. Just like we are told to drive defensively, on Halloween, and frankly anytime, we should be “defensive pedestrians.”
I think that parents should be hyper-vigilant about creating a safe environment for their kids if they want to trick or treat. That includes dressing kids in light colored, reflective and flame-retardant costumes that do not obstruct their vision. At the same time, children under 12 should be carefully supervised and be taught never to enter a stranger’s home or garage. According to Autoinsurance.org, Halloweens result in an average 14% rise in fatal car crashes, regardless of what night the holiday falls.
Here are some tips for those who need to drive on Halloween that will help keep vulnerable, trick or treating children safe:
Slow down in residential neighborhoods and obey all traffic signs and signals. Drive at least 5 mph below the posted speed limit to give yourself extra time to react to children who may dart into the street. Drive even slower than that if confronted by snow-covered or icy streets from recent winter storms.
Look for children crossing the street. They may not be paying attention to traffic and may cross the street mid-block or between parked cars.
Carefully enter and exit driveways and alleys.
Turn your headlights on to make yourself more visible – even in the daylight.
Broaden your scanning by looking for children left and right into yards and on front porches.
Never drive impaired. Never text and drive.
If you have been drinking, or using marijuana or taking prescription medications, do not get behind the wheel . . . period!
Some tips for parents to keep their children safe while trick-or-treating:
Make sure Halloween costumes are flame-retardant and light in color to improve visibility.
Be bright at night – wear retro-reflective tape on costumes and on treat buckets, carry glow sticks and flashlights. Make sure your flashlights have new batteries ahead of time!
Wear disguises that don’t obstruct vision. Instead, use non-toxic face paint. Also, watch the length of billowy costumes to help avoid tripping.
Ensure any props are flexible and blunt tipped to avoid injury from tripping or horseplay.
Ask an adult or older child to supervise children under age 12 and stay in a pack. Don’t allow any of the kids to stray away from the pack.
Instruct children to travel only in familiar areas and along established routes.
Teach children to stop only at well-lit houses and to never to enter a stranger’s home or garage.
Review trick-or-treating safety precautions, including pedestrian and traffic safety rules.