This Halloween, Beware of Traffic

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I’ve written in the past about how important it is for drivers to take extra precautions on Halloween because of the increased foot traffic–in particular, the unusual number of young children out walking. This remains an important consideration. The risk of pedestrian fatality on Halloween evening is about 43% higher than on comparable evenings.

Here’s a bit more information about the risk to young pedestrians on Halloween:

  • 60% of pedestrian fatalities on Halloween happen between 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.
  • The heaviest concentration for Halloween pedestrian fatalities is between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.–the hour during which the sun sets in much of the country, including South Carolina
  • Halloween pedestrian accidents most often occur in the middle of the block, so make sure your kids are always crossing at the crosswalk
  • Young drivers presented the greatest risk, with those aged 25 and under accounting for about ⅓ of all child pedestrian deaths on Halloween

But, children out trick-or-treating aren’t the only ones at risk on Halloween. Fatal traffic crashes in general increase on Halloween. On average, there are 13% more fatal motor vehicle accidents on Halloween than on the average night. The increase is much more significant when Halloween falls on a weekday(16.3%)  than when it falls on Saturday or Sunday (5.3%).

Sometimes, the increased risk has been even more dramatic. In the past 25 years, there have been six Halloweens when the number of traffic fatalities was more than 25% higher than the average for that day of the week.

Why Are There More Fatal Traffic Crashes on Halloween?

There’s no single reason that traffic fatality rates tend to be higher on Halloween than on the average day. Some factors that impact Halloween traffic safety include:

  • Larger numbers of pedestrians on the street, including children who may be less visible and may behave unpredictably–this increased activity doesn’t just increase the risk of pedestrian accidents, but also creates distractions for drivers and may require drivers to brake abruptly or swerve, increasing the risk of colliding with another vehicle.
  • October traditionally has a higher-than-average number of traffic deaths. Typically, only July has more traffic fatalities. This may be partly because the days are getting shorter in October. According to the National Safety Council, peak crash times are earlier in October and through the winter than they are during the longer days of summer: 4-8 p.m. in the fall and winter compared with 8 p.m.-midnight in the summer months.
  • Like other holidays, Halloween brings an increase in drinking and driving. While the numbers aren’t as dramatic as Thanksgiving or the 4th of July, it’s a popular party night. Across one recent five-year period, 41% of Halloween night traffic fatalities involved at least one driver who was operating under the influence.

Halloween Traffic Safety Tips

For Parents

As a parent, the most significant thing you can do to keep your kids safe during trick-or-treating and other outdoor Halloween activities is to make sure children who are young enough that they might become distracted or forget traffic safety are closely supervised. You should also:

  • Make sure your kids are visible, whether that means reflective clothing, reflective tape on their costumes, lights on bags, carrying glow sticks or flashlights, or whatever it takes to ensure that a driver will see your child if they enter the street.
  • Cross at the corner and make sure kids who are going out unsupervised understand the importance of this. It’s natural to want to run across in the middle of the street if they spot a friend or an especially eye-catching display, but that’s where most Halloween pedestrian deaths occur.
  • Make sure kids’ masks don’t obstruct their vision–even partially.
  • Take direct routes up and down a street or around a block instead of crossing back and forth to avoid unnecessary time in the street or kids getting careless with repetition.
  • Whenever possible, stick to streets where you can keep kids on the sidewalk.

For Halloween Drivers

If possible, stay off residential streets between roughly 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Halloween night, when child pedestrians are most at risk. But, stay vigilant earlier and later, too. Some ways you can help improve Halloween traffic safety include:

  • Not drinking and driving–even slight impairment can be catastrophic if something sudden happens like a child running into the street.
  • Slowing down and paying extra attention, especially on residential streets and when there are kids out walking.
  • Leaving extra distance between your car and the one in front of you, to minimize the chances of a collision if someone has to stop suddenly.

Do your part to keep Halloween safe and fun for everyone.

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