Halloween is meant to be the spookiest night of the year, but it’s important to make sure that the only scary experiences you and your family have involve frightening costumes and decorations, instead of devastating car accidents. Children and adults face distinct risks on Halloween because of the different types of celebrations each group is drawn to, but serious accidents involving motor vehicles are the common denominator among threats faced by anyone who goes out to celebrate the holiday. Unfortunately, Halloween ranks among the top ten most dangerous holidays for driving, but with a few extra safety precautions, you can help ensure that the only horrors you and your loved ones experience come from monster movies, creepy costumes, or getting the unpopular candy in their trick-or-treat bag.
Safety Tips for Kids
- Provide active and alert supervision. Children should be accompanied by a responsible adult on their trick-or-treating quests, and that adult should remain vigilant for cars, and encourage the kids to do likewise. Resist the temptation to pull out your phone during a lull, and restrict photo opportunities to known safe areas like your own front lawn or living room.
- Plan your route with safety in mind. Stick to neighborhoods that you know well as you plan your trick-or-treat path. Not every residential area has sidewalks or safe walking paths, but utilize them whenever they are available. Cross the street only at intersections, preferably those with crosswalks or stop signs, and be sure that any drivers acknowledge you before crossing.
- Avoid restrictive costume options. Your child should be able to see, hear, and move without interference from masks or other costume elements. If a mask impairs the child’s vision or hearing, or their costume restricts their ability to move quickly or creates a tripping hazard, consider modifying the outfit to eliminate the restriction. Nothing should impede a child’s ability to notice a car coming and move quickly if necessary.
- Make it easy to see and be seen. Trick-or-treating often happens after dark, and many costume choices involve dark colors, which can make it harder for motorists to notice children (who are already smaller and tend to move quickly and unpredictably). Flashlights, reflective tape, or glow-in-the-dark accessories may not fit a costume’s aesthetic, but they will keep a child safer from cars at night.
Safety Tips for Adults
- Plan ahead if you plan to drink. It should go without saying, but when 1 in 3 traffic fatalities involve alcohol, it needs to be said anyway: Never drive when you’ve been drinking, and never get into a car with a driver who has been drinking. If you plan to drink at a Halloween party, choose a reliable designated driver who will remain sober, or make arrangements to spend the night at or near the party location so you won’t need to drive. If necessary, call for a taxi or ride share service to get home safely.
- Stay alert for reckless drivers. Even if you make smart and responsible choices, other drivers might not do likewise. Watch for erratic driving behavior from other motorists – such as driving without headlights on, failing to maintain their lane, unpredictable speed changes, or other signs of potential intoxication – and try to avoid them if possible.
- Watch for children in residential areas. At the best of times, children are harder to spot than adults: they are smaller and more prone to dart across roads unpredictably. At night, in dark costumes, and on the hunt for candy, children become even more difficult to notice from behind the wheel. When driving through residential neighborhoods, keep your speed low and pay attention to the sides of the road, where kids might attempt a sudden and unsafe road crossing.
- Choose your route with care. Major highways and main thoroughfares are more likely to have heavy traffic, and therefore have increased odds of reckless or drunk drivers. At the same time, residential neighborhood streets may be full of trick-or-treating children, at least earlier in the evening. It may be safer to take main roads on the way to your event, early in the night, and return home on back roads once the trick-or-treaters have gone to bed. Ideally, choose routes you know well, so that you can best evaluate their safety level.
- Be aware of your level of alertness. Even if you don’t drink, staying out late at a party can take its toll on your ability to remain alert and aware behind the wheel. Drowsy driving is dangerous, and causes many of the same impairments as drunk driving, such as slowed reaction times, inattention to the road, and inability to maintain your speed and lane position. The solution is the same as well – get a ride with someone less fatigued, or find a safe place to stay the night.
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