Smart Road Tips for Halloween Safety

Advice for drivers and trick-or-treaters

Children running on the street in Halloween costumes Photo: Getty Images

There may be fewer ghosts, witches, and superheroes wandering along the roads this Halloween looking for candy and treats because of COVID-19 concerns, but it’s important that drivers remain vigilant and keep an eye out for costumed children darting into the road, crossing parking lots, or strolling along the streets. 

The scary reality is that Halloween has been one of the deadliest days of the year for pedestrians, especially children, statistics show. The risk of a pedestrian fatality was 43 percent higher on Halloween, based on a comprehensive study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association that analyzed 42 years of data.

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“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 Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center. “Everyone needs to be ultracareful to not turn such a fun evening into tragedy.” 

About half of traffic deaths overall occur either in the dark or at dawn or dusk, says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “Driving at night is three times as risky as driving during the day,” says Matthew Brumbelow, a senior research engineer at the IIHS. The holiday should also serve as a reminder to motorists and pedestrians alike about the dangers. 

The latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that 6,205 pedestrians died in traffic collisions in 2019. 

Fortunately, there are clear steps that trick-or-treaters and drivers can take to improve safety for all. Below are tips from CR experts and NHTSA.

Tips for Trick-or-Treaters

  • Parents should accompany children younger than 12.
  • 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 costume masks. Of course, because of the pandemic, children and chaperones should wear face masks that cover the nose and mouth, and they should practice social distancing. 
  • Give children a flashlight to walk with in the dark, so they can be more easily seen by drivers. Glow sticks can help, too.
  • Kids should keep their phones in their pockets, unless taking photos on a porch. Walking with a device risks the child not being aware of their surroundings.

Tips for Drivers

  • Drive slowly in and around neighborhoods and on residential streets, even if you don’t see trick-or-treaters around.
  • Don’t drink and drive. Drunk driving incidents increase on Halloween. NHTSA reports that 41 percent of all people killed in motor vehicle crashes on Halloween night from 2014 to 2018 were in crashes involving drunk driving. About one-third of all crash fatalities in the U.S. involve drunk drivers, according to NHTSA.
  • Watch for children who may dart out into the street, and always yield to pedestrians. If you see one child, there are likely to be 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 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 or making 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.

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