As ghosts, witches, and superheroes wander the roads on Halloween looking for candy and treats, drivers should take extra care to ensure that the holiday doesn’t become truly horrifying.

The scary reality is that Halloween is one of the deadliest days of the year for pedestrians, especially children, statistics show. Pedestrian deaths in the U.S. have spiked recently, reaching 6,283 in 2018, a 3.4 percent increase from 2017. The latest reported death toll is the highest since 1990, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

More on Halloween Safety

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that pedestrian deaths soared by 45 percent from their low point in 2009, with an increasing share of the deaths away from intersections and on busy and dark city and suburban roads.

"Halloween night is like a 'perfect storm' of risk because it involves darkness, a huge increase in pedestrian traffic—especially children—and all sorts of distractions," says Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at CR's Auto Test Center. "Everyone needs to be ultra-careful to not turn such a fun evening into tragedy." 

Halloween brings out children of all ages walking on, alongside, and crossing streets. It’s important for them to be aware of their surroundings so they can stay safe.

And there are steps that parents and drivers can take to reduce the risks.

Tips for Trick-or-Treaters

The tips below are from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Department of Transportation.

  • Parents should accompany children younger than 12 years old.
  • Children should walk—not run—from house to house.
  • Children should stay on sidewalks instead of walking between cars or on lawns, where there could be tripping hazards.
  • Parents should remind children to look for cars when crossing driveways.
  • Pedestrians shouldn't assume they have the right of way, because motorists may not see them.
  • Go trick-or-treating before it is truly dark, especially with young children. 
  • Parents and children should consider choosing costumes that are lighter in color, which make it easier for drivers to see them. Adding reflective material to the front and back makes a costume easier to pick out. It can even be built into the design.
  • Avoid costumes that make it more difficult for a child to see, especially ones that include masks. If a mask is necessary, kids may want to remove it when moving between houses for greatest visibility.
  • Give children a flashlight to walk with in the dark so they can be more easily seen by drivers. Glow sticks can help, too.
Child in Halloween costume
Don't put a child in a car seat with a padded costume because it can compress in a crash and prevent the seat from providing optimal protection.

Tips for Drivers

Drivers can find Halloween to be especially difficult, because children often behave unpredictably and can be difficult to see after dark. These tips are from NHTSA and the Department of Transportation.

  • Halloween is especially dangerous for drivers and pedestrians.
  • Drive slowly in and around neighborhoods and on residential streets.
  • Don't drink and drive. Drunken-driving incidents increase on Halloween. (NHTSA reports that 42 percent of all people killed in motor vehicle crashes on Halloween night from 2013 to 2017 were in crashes involving drunken driving.)
  • Watch for children who may dart out into the street, and always yield to pedestrians. If you see one child, there are likely more ready to cross.
  • If you're driving children around for trick-or-treating, make sure they're buckled up appropriately in a child car seat or with a seat belt. Make sure they buckle up each and every time they enter the car, and check to make sure they're secure before you drive to the next stop.
  • Parents transporting kids for Halloween activities may be tempted to buckle them in wearing their costumes. But some costumes may have added padding or hard surfaces that will make it difficult for the car-seat harness or vehicle seat belt to properly fit the child. Consumer Reports advises buying costumes without padding or hard surfaces, or have your child change into their costume after arriving at their destination.
  • Pull over at safe locations to let children exit at the curb and away from traffic. Use your hazard lights to alert other drivers of your car. 
  • Try to park in a spot where you won’t need to back up. But if you must, have an adult outside to make sure no children are in the way of your vehicle when you do.
  • Don't use a cell phone or other mobile device while driving. Pull over safely to check voice messages or texts, if necessary.
Child in car seat
Take the time to secure your child properly, even if that means removing his costume.

By being cautious and mindful of safety this Halloween, you can make sure the holiday is a treat for all.