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Promoting a Fun AND Safe Halloween by Kirsten Mansfield



While families, parents, and children across the U.S. are trying to soak up their remaining few weeks or days of summer, grocery stores are quickly preparing for the next season. Not only are the aisles beginning to fill up with back to school supplies, but orange and black, over-sized candy bags are also beginning to reemerge. Furthermore, as pop-up Halloween stores start to reappear in our local shopping centers over the next couple of weeks, kids will begin to plan what Disney princess, monster, pop-star, or famous athlete they will impersonate this October 31st.

Currently, you may be far from ready to think about picking up a giant candy supply for your neighborhood trick-or-treaters or designing the perfect costume for your child or grandchild. But it is never too early to consider what actions you can take to help contribute to a safe Halloween.

In a recent study , Dr. John A. Staples and his colleagues analyzed four decades (1975-2016) of data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (1). In their nation-wide analysis, these researchers discovered an association between pedestrian fatalities and Halloween. More specifically, their results indicate that the average Halloween resulted in four additional pedestrian deaths, a 43% increase in pedestrian fatalities on Halloween. Furthermore, their findings suggest that children between the ages of four to eight years experience the greatest increased risk, as there was a demonstrated 10-fold increase in pedestrian fatality risk among this age group on Halloween (1).

These findings are not to suggest that we should ban or boycott Halloween, but are to highlight gaps in traffic safety (1). Particularly, it is important to bring the community’s attention to these issues and offer a variety of steps and actions we can take to help prevent Halloween pedestrian accidents.

Pedestrian injury and fatality often reveal deficiencies in the design of neighborhoods or lack of traffic control. Narrow streets, lack of sidewalks, dangerous crossing sections, and excessive speeding can contribute to pedestrian injury and fatality on Halloween and throughout the year (1,2).

In order to help decrease pedestrian injury and fatality, as a community member, you can engage with your local officials, police departments, and other community organizations to promote initiatives or policies that limit street parking, add reflective patches on the road, adjust and monitor speed limits in residential neighborhoods, and incorporate future designs for sidewalks and wider streets. These changes, along with many others, could increase visibility and lead to traffic calming that may help eliminate pedestrian injury and fatality throughout the year (1).

However, these types of action and change may take time. There are many other steps and precautions that you can practice during this upcoming Halloween to promote a festive, fun, and, most importantly, a safe night.

If you are planning on taking the streets by foot this Halloween, some safe practices that you can utilize are (2,3):

· Supervising children and walking with them as they go door-to-door.

· Staying on the sidewalks and avoiding walking on the streets.

· Crossing at traffic signals and designated pedestrian intersections.

· Making yourself and your trick-or-treaters visible by incorporating reflectors onto clothing or carrying flashlights or glows sticks.

· Refraining from drinking and walking.

For those who are driving on Halloween, especially during the evening trick-or-treating festivities, you can help promote a safe Halloween by (2,3):

· Avoiding distractions, such as texting.

· Reporting impaired drivers to the police and refraining from drinking and driving.

· Driving slowly, especially in residential neighborhoods, and being prepared for pedestrians to cross in the middle of the street.

Hopefully, these tips will help you and your community foster a safe and Happy Halloween!

References:

Staples JA, Yip C, Redelmeier DA (2019). Pedestrian fatalities associated with Halloween in the United States. JAMA Pediatr,173(1):101-103. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.4052M. Stevenson, D. Sleet, R. Ferguson (2015). Preventing child pedestrian injury: a guide for practitioners. Am. J. Lifestyle Med., 9 pp. 442-450 Halloween Safety | AAA Exchange. (2015). Aaa.Com, exchange.aaa.com/safety/child-safety/halloween-safety/#.XUr9XZNKgyk. Accessed 7 Aug. 2019.Halloween is 'Deadliest Day' Of The Year For Child Pedestrian Fatalities. (2012). PR Newswire, p. PR Newswire, Oct 23, 2012.

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