As Halloween 2020 approaches, AAA raised concerns over a dangerous traffic safety trifecta: increased pedestrian activity, drunk driving and drowsy driving — all of which converge this Halloween weekend. The ghostly holiday falls on a Saturday this year, followed a few short hours later by “falling back” at the end of daylight-saving time (DST) at 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 1.
Halloween festivities amid the COVID-19 pandemic will likely look different for many communities, parents, trick-or-treaters and party-goers, AAA representatives noted. Traditional indoor activities, such as costume parties for children and adults, can move outside in small, socially distanced settings. However, those planning to celebrate should not lose sight of safety first, they urged.
Halloween dangers — child pedestrian safety and drunk driving
According to Safe Kids Worldwide, children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than any other day of the year.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that Halloween is consistently one of the top three days of the year for pedestrian injuries and fatalities.
Creative costumes, trick-or-treating and bags full of goodies become top Halloween priorities, but safety often becomes an afterthought. Excited trick-or-treaters can 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.
“With an increased risk of pedestrian crashes on Halloween night, AAA Mid-Atlantic urges parents to take the time to make trick-or-treaters and their costumes safer and more visible to motorists,” said Ken Grant, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “In addition, motorists must eliminate distractions, slow down and watch for children, as well as have a completely sober designated driver if drinking is part of a Halloween celebration.”
Halloween is also a statistically dangerous night for drunk driving. The combination of drinking and increased pedestrian traffic on Halloween is a deadly combination. AAA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) found that:
• One-fourth of all pedestrian deaths ranging in age from 5-14 occurred in the four days leading up to Halloween (Oct. 28-31) in 2017.
• On Halloween night 2017, 89 people were fatally injured in a traffic crash, with 13 percent involving alcohol.
• In 2017, more than half of pedestrian fatalities on Halloween occurred with the pedestrian outside of a marked crosswalk.
• From 2013 to 2017, 158 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes on Halloween night (NHTSA)
• From 2013 to 2017, 22 percent of pedestrian fatalities on Halloween night involved a drunk driver. (NHTSA)
• During that period, 42 percent of all people killed in motor vehicle crashes on Halloween night were in crashes involving a drunk driver. (NHTSA)
In Delaware, Delaware State Police reported:
• Pedestrian fatalities (32) increased by 25 percent in 2019, from 24 in 2018.
• A distracted and/or drowsy driver was a contributing factor in 6,887 crashes in 2019.
• A drunk driver was a contributing factor in 873 crashes in 2019.
AAA Halloween safety tips
• Do not use your phone while behind the wheel, so you can focus on the road and trick-or-treaters.
• 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. Broaden your scanning by looking for children left and right into yards and on front porches.
• 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, taking extra care if you are backing up or turning.
• Turn your headlights on to make yourself more visible — even in the daylight.
• Make sure Halloween costumes are flame-retardant and light in color to improve visibility.
• Be bright at night — have trick-or-treaters use glow sticks or wear retro-reflective tape on costumes and on treat buckets.
• Ensure disguises don’t obstruct vision and avoid full facemasks.
• Create face masks that coordinate with costumes rather than regular costume masks. This won’t obstruct vision and follows health and safety guidelines for COVID-19. Instead, use nontoxic 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 younger than 12.
• 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.
• Stay on sidewalks and avoid walking in streets if possible.
• If there are no sidewalks, walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic.
• Look both ways and listen for traffic before crossing the street.
• Watch for cars turning or backing up.
• Cross streets only at the corner, using traffic signals and crosswalks, and never cross between parked vehicles or mid-block.
• Trick-or-treat in a group if someone older cannot go with you.
• Tell your parents where you are going.
• Carry a flashlight containing fresh batteries. Never shine flashlights into the eyes of oncoming drivers.
• Arrange a safe ride home and/or designate a driver before partaking in any festivities.
• Always designate a sober driver.
• If you are drunk, take a taxi or ride share service, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation.
• Before leaving for a party, load ride share apps or put numbers of local cab companies or your designated driver(s) into your phone.
• Walking impaired can be as dangerous as drunk driving. Designate a sober friend to walk you home.
• If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact local law enforcement.
• If you know someone who is about to drive or ride impaired, take their keys and help them make safe travel arrangements to where they are going.
Daylight saving-time ends — drowsy driving dangers
This year, daylight-saving time (DST) ends just a few hours after Halloween, giving tired trick-or-treaters and partygoers an extra hour of sleep as clocks “fall back” to standard time. However, AAA reminded motorists to be prepared for potential challenges, such as changes in sleep patterns that may increase chances of drowsy driving and shorter days, which means driving home in the dark.
Sleep-deprived drivers cause more than 6,400 deaths and 50,000 debilitating injuries on American roadways each year, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). PennDOT reports that in 2019, drowsy drivers were a contributing factor in 2,509 crashes in Pennsylvania, resulting in 12 fatalities.
“The end of daylight-saving time will bring shorter days and longer nights, and while many will enjoy an extra hour of sleep this weekend, few motorists realize the added dangers that can come as the result of a time change — especially when they are behind the wheel,” said Grant. “Although we gain an hour of sleep, our sleep patterns are disrupted. This can result in unsafe drowsy driving episodes.”
AAA Mid-Atlantic tips for drivers:
• Slow down.
• Turn on your headlights to become more visible during early morning and evening hours.
• Keep vehicle headlights and windows (inside and out) clean.
• Do not use high beams when other cars or pedestrians are around.
• Yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks and do not pass vehicles stopped at crosswalks.
AAA Mid-Atlantic tips for pedestrians and bicyclists:
• Cross only at intersections. Look left, right and left again and only cross when it is clear. Do not jaywalk.
• Cross at the corner — not in the middle of the street or between parked cars.
• Avoid walking in traffic where there are no sidewalks or crosswalks. If you have to walk on a road that does not have sidewalks, walk facing traffic.
• Evaluate the distance and speed of oncoming traffic before you step out into the street.
• Wear bright colors or reflective clothing if you are walking or biking near traffic at night. Carry a flashlight when walking in the dark.
• Avoid listening to music or make sure it is at a low volume so you can hear danger approaching.
• Bicycle lights are a must-have item for safe night riding, especially during the winter months when it gets dark earlier.