WASHINGTON, D. C. (Tuesday, October 29, 2019) –– Trick or treat! A good scare is “scary good” on Halloween. But not when it comes to child pedestrian safety, warns AAA Mid-Atlantic. As “things that go bump in the night” abound, Halloween consistently emerges as one of the top three days of the year for pedestrian injuries and fatalities, reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Nationally, the number of pedestrian fatalities, of children and adults, quadruples on Halloween. Statistically, Halloween is also a dangerous night for drunk driving. If you are impaired, avoid walking, cycling, or riding an e-scooter, moped or motorcycle while in a tipsy state on Halloween.
Beware even if you don’t believe in “genii, ghosts, goblins” and such. Halloween is a big night for children. It is perhaps an even bigger night for adults and millennials in the Washington metro area. Most years, “2/3 of adults” will celebrate Halloween. “The fall and winter months bring less daylight and darker commuting hours, which can lead to more crashes between cars and pedestrians or bicyclists,” warns the fall 2019 Street Smart Program, under the auspices of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG). That is especially true around Halloween. Creative costumes, trick-or-treating and bags full of goodies become top Halloween priorities, but safety often becomes an afterthought. Excited trick-or-treaters often forget about safety, so drivers, party-goers and parents must be even more alert, as the risk of kids being injured by moving vehicles increases greatly. Watch for adults in costumes and “high heel racers.”
“Long before the witching hour, it behooves all motorists to eliminate all distractions, slow down and watch for children, as well as have a completely sober designated driver, if drinking is part of a Halloween celebration,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “In addition, with an increased risk of pedestrian crashes on Halloween night, the police and safety advocates warn parents to take the time to make trick-or-treaters and their costumes safer and more visible to motorists.”
“The combination of drinking and increased pedestrian traffic on Halloween is a deadly combination. Even one drink can be too many,” said Leah Scully, Traffic Safety Specialist, Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education. “Having a plan for getting home from a Halloween party safely is critical. Don’t wait until you’ve have been drinking. By that point, your judgment is impaired.”
It’s “Fright Night.” It is estimated around “180 million people will celebrate Halloween in the United States in 2019.” All told, “68 percent of Americans plan to celebrate Halloween this year,” according to the National Retail Federation (NFR). That includes the young and old. Get this through your frontal cerebral cortex. Avoid impairment by alcohol and drugs or both. It is part and parcel of the “adultification of Halloween” in the Washington metro area, which is also “taking place in virtually every city in America.”
A drunken driving arrest occurred every seven hours in the District of Columbia during fiscal 2018,
according to the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), which proactively offered free Lyft rides to keep impaired Halloween revelers from getting behind the wheel this past weekend. Walking or cycling impaired on Halloween night is almost as dangerous as drunk driving. So is impaired motorcycle riding. What is more, “In 2016, 34 percent of fatally injured pedestrians had a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.1 percent or higher,” reports the Insurance Information Institute (III).
“Almost half of all adult pedestrians between the ages of 21 and 54 who died in 2012 were at or above the illegal blood alcohol content limit of drivers.” One research sample, albeit small, revealed nearly half of the persons injured in e-scooter crashes “had levels above the legal limit for driving a car.” It is a “dark carnival” in more ways than one. “No matter the mode, avoid distractions and designate a sober friend to walk you home, drive you home, or take you home,” said Townsend.
It is not an amazing oddity. One-fourth of all pedestrian deaths ranging in age from 5-14 occurred in the four days leading up to Halloween (October 28-31) in 2017. Research also shows “the number of childhood pedestrian deaths increased fourfold among children on Halloween evenings when compared with all other evenings.” In fact, “the holiday may heighten pedestrian traffic risk, because celebrations occur at dusk, masks restricts peripheral vision, costumes limit visibility, street-crossing safety is neglected, and some partygoers are impaired by alcohol.” That is according to research published in the January 2019 edition of the JAMA Pediatrics journal. Law enforcement officials in Wicomico County warn:
Nationally, 44% of crashes during Halloween weekend involved a driver of motorcyclist with a BAC of 0.08 or higher.
38% of fatal crashes that occurred on Halloween night involved a driver of motorcyclist with a BAC of 0.08 or higher.
23% of pedestrian fatalities on Halloween night included a drunk driver.
In some circles, Halloween is also called “Harvest Day” or “Harvest Party/Festival.” Halloween safety must come first even when collecting sweets! It is when the “protective charms are eagerly sought for.” AAA and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) advise:
Make sure that children are accompanied by a responsible adult when trick or treating and that they bring a flashlight.
Motorists should be extra vigilant when driving on Halloween night and be mindful of young and more vulnerable road users.
Make sure your costume (whether adult or child) is made of flame-resistant material. You should also try to wear a layer of clothes under your costume so that there is a barrier between it and your skin. This will offer you some protection if it catches fire.
Fasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to help drivers see you.
Be extra vigilant when crossing roads.
Only walk on sidewalks whenever possible, or on the far edge of the road facing traffic to stay safe.
Remember, children can be unpredictable and dart out on the road without prior warning.
Take extra care and slow down.
Watch your steps. “The number of housing units where trick-or-treaters had to climb steps in order to fill their bags full of candy in 2015 was 66.6 million,” according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“If you see a drunk driver or impaired pedestrian on the road, contact local law enforcement.”
It is much scarier than “watching a horror flick.” It is real. Yet there are multiple ways to make Halloween safer for everyone. “Mitigating factors include broad public awareness of Halloween, widespread parental supervision of younger children, and the potential for improved safety as pedestrian numbers increase,” notes the JAMA Pediatrics journal.
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