A Real Safety Issue: Traffic

It appears that the dangers associated with urban legends such as poisoned candy, razor blades in apples, and satanic rituals are overblown and largely overestimated. The lack of evidence for these urban legends does not, of course, imply that parents and caregivers should be unconcerned about safety issues when children are allowed to trick-or-treat. Some aspects of trick-or-treating may be dangerous, and it has been indicated that the most serious of these is probably traffic. Part of the problem is the presence of drunk drivers. In 1998, for example, more than 20% of all fatalities that occurred during that Halloween weekend were alcohol-related. Adult drinking and driving is not the only culprit, however; factors such as dark costumes which are difficult for drivers to see are also part of the problem, and kids often are easily excitable on Halloween and perhaps as a result more likely to impulsively run out into traffic. Many young children aren’t ready to handle street crossing by themselves and frequently overestimate how quickly they can cross over to the other side of a street.

In compiling data from Halloween-related traffic fatalities from 1975 through 1996, the Centers for Disease Control, the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, and the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control reported that, for children ages 5–14, an average of four deaths per year occurred during peak trick-or-treat evening hours, whereas an average of one death occurred in this age group per year on every other day of the year. An addendum to the report “warns the figure may be low, since it does not include accidents that occur in driveways, parking lots and on sidewalks, nor does it include data beyond 10 PM or from another day”.

Ultimately, it would appear that sadists or satanists are not nearly as much a threat to children on Halloween as are cars, trucks, and SUVs.

These figures suggest that the likelihood of a child becoming involved in a fatal accident is only slightly higher on Halloween than on any other day. Although the death of even one child in a traffic accident is one too many, the realization that such accidents remain extremely rare can hopefully provide some needed comfort — and perspective — to frequently anxious parents and caregivers concerned about their children’s safety on Halloween.




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