Halloween is just around the corner. Kids (and grownups) around the country are gearing up for a night of costumes, candy and friends.
However, Halloween is not all fun and games. When it comes to accidents on the road, it’s one of the most dangerous nights of the year. The combination of heavy traffic, sugar-high children wandering around the neighborhood and adults coming home late from parties can spell trouble.
This year, follow these essential guidelines to keep yourself, your kids, and the people around you safe while driving on Halloween.
1. Yield to children.
When you see kids starting to cross the road, always stop and let them go. Children don’t always remember to look twice before crossing, and they don’t always make good decisions about when it’s safe to go into the street!
In the dark, it can be hard even for adults to judge distances from a car’s approaching headlights, much less kids who are sugar high and out late with their friends. Slow down whenever you see children near the street and be ready to stop immediately.
2. Drive slowly.
As mentioned above, when there are trick-or-treaters around you have to be ready to stop at any moment. On Halloween night, I recommend driving 5 miles below the speed limit in residential neighborhoods. That way you’ll have a chance to see if anyone jumps unexpectedly into the street, and stop in time.
3. Don’t pass stopped cars.
There’s a good chance they’re picking up or dropping off trick-or-treaters. There could be young children walking around the car, who can be difficult to see next to the vehicle.
4. Watch the time.
Between 4pm and 8pm are the hours when most young children are out trick-or-treating. During these hours, exercise extreme caution when driving through residential areas. If you can change your route to avoid going through family-filled neighborhoods, so much the better.
5. Use your headlights.
Visibility around twilight, when kids start coming out in costumes, is lower than you might think. Shining your lights, especially in residential areas, makes it easier for your to see children and for them to see you. Just not your brights: you don’t want to blind them!
6. Cut down on distractions.
Tonight more than ever, you want to minimize distractions while driving. Leave your phone in the back seat and as much as you enjoy chatting with friends in the car, give the road your attention first and foremost. And especially…
7. Turn the radio down.
It’s fun to jam out on your way to or from a party, but on Halloween night, you can’t afford to miss anything that’s going on outside your car. It’s vitally important that you are able to hear another car’s horn, sirens or someone shouting outside. Leave the music for when you get where you’re going safely.
8. Be cautious pulling out of driveways and into the road.
Kids will be walking up and down driveways all night, and they don’t always understand drivers’ intentions. They often will assume the driver sees them and will stop for them. Use extreme caution when backing out. You might even honk the horn before you start moving.
And look twice at crosswalks! Small children can be hard to see, especially in the dark.
9. Drive sober.
This should go without saying, but really, be clean and sober before you get behind the wheel! Never drive under the influence of alcohol, least of all on a night when many children are out late and many drivers are on the road.
Not all drivers are as conscientious as you (hopefully) are. Statistics show that 52% of fatal motor vehicle accidents on Halloween involve alcohol. This is a scary number already, don’t add to it!
Go to a party with a designated driver to get you home safe. If you’ve been drinking and you don’t have a driver, even if you feel ok to drive, call for a taxi. Often people don’t realize they’re not ok to drive until it’s too late.
Also, keep in mind that tiredness can impede judgment and reflexes almost as much as alcohol. If you’re out dancing until 2am, even if sober it still might be wiser to call a cab.
10. Communicate with other drivers.
Again, this is something you should do all the time, but it goes double on Halloween night. Don’t assume other drivers know exactly where you are and what you’re about to do. Always use your turn signals and honk if you see something dangerous, or if it seems like another car doesn’t know you’re there. If you stop to pick up or drop off your kids, turn on the hazard lights until your children are safely out of the way and you’re ready to start driving again.
Keep your own trick-or-treaters safe
Halloween is a great opportunity to reinforce to your children how to stay safe around cars. Before you let them dash out the door on their candy hunt, make it clear that they should only cross the street at corners and crosswalks, and to look both ways before they cross.
Remind them that cars might not always see them. They should look for a sign from the driver before crossing in front of a car at a crosswalk or behind a car in a driveway.
Until your child is 8 or 9, and responsible enough to stay with a group, they should be accompanied by an adult – yourself or another parent looking out for the whole pack of kids. Once having a grownup around starts to get embarrassing, you can send them instead with an older sibling.
Never allow your child to go trick-or-treating alone! They should always be either with a trusted adult, older sibling or group of friends. Know beforehand who your kid is going out with.
Tell your kids to take off their mask while crossing the road, as masks can block their vision.
Brighten up their costume with some reflective tape and give them flashlights or glowsticks to hold, to increase visibility to drivers. Most kids won’t mind a little extra flash on their costume.
Halloween is the most exciting night of the year for many children, and also adults. Who doesn’t love an excuse to get dressed up and play make-believe for one night?
Let’s keep everyone safe this Halloween by exercising extra caution on the roads. Drive slow, drive sober, be alert and aware of your surroundings. It could save a life.
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