Protecting Your Kids from the #1 Risk This Halloween

Date: October 27, 2009

Halloween is a time for scary stories, and often it’s the grownups getting spooked. Parents hear warnings about stranger danger, razor blades, and LSD in candy bags. There’s even a scientific study on eye injuries from throwing raw eggs. Some folks worry about black cats. But the real danger on Halloween night is one so ordinary it could go unnoticed: motor vehicle traffic.

And in 2009, the danger from car-pedestrian accidents could be higher than ever, because the holiday falls on a Saturday. According to the University of Michigan News Service, children under 15 are 4.5 times more likely to die in a car crash on Halloween than on any other evening of the year, with most deaths occurring between 4 PM and 8 PM – prime trick-or-treating time.

Drunk drivers are a particular menace this time of year, due to alcohol served at Halloween parties. Reuters reports that 58% percent of all Halloween traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 2008 involved a driver with a blood-alcohol content of .08 or higher. These are the same drivers who will be on the road while your children trick-or-treat.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can (mostly) relax about. According to Lenore Skenazy in Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry, there has never been a single report of a child poisoned by Halloween candy given to them by a stranger. Also, sex crimes against preteen children are no higher during Halloween than at any other time of the year, according to a study in Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment. Of course, every parent should be cautious, and it doesn’t hurt to inspect the candy, but don’t waste too much time on oddities; focus on the real dangers, like the four-times-higher risk of a car crash fatality on Halloween.

It is vital to do everything possible to protect your kids from traffic dangers. Here are a few tips:

  1. Set a good example. If you host or attend a Halloween party, make sure no one drinks and drives.
  2. Give your children a refresher course in “Stop, Look, and Listen.”
  3. When preparing costumes, consider using makeup instead of sight-obscuring masks.
  4. Have your kids carry flashlights, stay on the sidewalk, and walk in groups.
  5. Accompany your children, or set a safe route for older kids.
  6. When driving, use extra caution before and after the Halloween weekend, not just on October 31. Some children may trick-or-treat or have parties on a different day.
  7. Do not pass a car that stops in front of you. It may be dropping off children.
  8. Never assume a pedestrian will yield, especially a child.
  9. Watch for children in driveways and medians, stay off your cell phone, and drive well below the speed limit. Rule of thumb: pretend you’re in a giant school zone.

Sure, it’s fun to listen to scary stories – but it’s not so pleasant to live through one. For children’s sake, take safe driving seriously this Halloween!

Shulman DuBois, LLC, is located in Portland, Oregon, and serves clients in all Oregon cities and counties, including: Portland, Beaverton, Multnomah County, Hillsboro, Gresham, Lake Oswego, West Linn, Tualatin, Troutdale, Sellwood, Corvallis, Salem, Eugene, and Albany.