On Halloween, there’s a lot more foot traffic than on the typical evening–especially an evening in late autumn. Many of those pedestrians are young children and adolescents, which complicates the driving situation further because:
- They’re smaller and may be less visible from your vehicle
- They may act unpredictably, such as darting across the street in the middle of the block
- Most of them are costumed, and those costumes don’t always take visibility into account
- Masks may partially impede their vision, meaning that even if they are paying attention they may be less aware of their surroundings
So, it probably won’t come as a surprise that the number of pedestrian fatalities on Halloween tends to be higher than on other comparable evenings, and that the increase is mostly attributable to children being hit by cars and other vehicles.
A few years ago, researchers assessed 42 years of data contained in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). The resulting research letter, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), revealed a 43% higher risk of pedestrian fatality on Halloween.
They reached this conclusion by comparing fatalities during a block of hours on each Halloween night to the same block of hours one week earlier and one week later. Using the same day of the week one week before and one week after helped to control for other variables such as weather, normal pedestrian patterns during the season, and when the sun set.
Halloween Traffic Fatalities
Pedestrian Fatalities on Halloween
Most pedestrian fatalities on Halloween take place between 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. The riskiest hour is between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., perhaps because that’s when sunset and increasing darkness overlap with many children being out on the street.
While it might stand to reason that most of the pedestrian fatalities on Halloween would involve children, that’s not always true. In fact, the breakdown of pedestrians killed by motor vehicles on Halloween varies significantly from year to year. For example, on Halloween 2014, 48% of pedestrian fatalities were children. In 2019, fewer than 5% were children.
The Risk is Increased for Other Traffic Fatalities as Well
It isn’t just pedestrians who face greater risks on Halloween. The number of fatal traffic crashes in general is higher on Halloween. Between 2005 and 2019, the smallest increase in traffic fatalities on Halloween was just over 21%. In two of those years, it climbed above 40%, and in several others was 25-35% higher.
Interestingly, the increase in traffic fatalities on Halloween is more significant on certain days of the week than others. In 2022, Halloween falls on a Monday. The average increase in traffic deaths on Halloween is more significant during the week than on the weekend, but Monday isn’t the worst day. The average increase in fatal traffic crashes on Halloweens that fall on Monday is just below 14%. On Fridays, the increase is nearly 22%.
Some communities hold trick-or-treating on the weekend, especially when the holiday falls on Monday. That may be good news, since Saturday is the only day of the week when Halloween historically doesn’t increase traffic fatalities. In fact, the fatality rate on Saturday Halloweens is slightly lower than on the average Saturday.
Why Are There More Fatal Motor Vehicle Accidents on Halloween?
It’s easy to see why there would be more pedestrian accidents and fatalities on Halloween, since the streets are more crowded and the people walking those streets may not be as cognizant of the risks as an adult might. But, why do more people die in motor vehicle crashes on that night?
There are likely a variety of contributing factors. For example, the increased pedestrian activity can be a distraction for drivers. And, kids seeing friends or a fancy Halloween display across the street may be more inclined to dart out into traffic, forcing drivers to take evasive action that may bring them in contact with other vehicles. But, not all causes are so innocent. One likely reason for the increase in traffic fatalities on Halloween is that while children celebrate the holiday by trick-or-treating, many adults celebrate with alcohol.
From 2015 to 2019, an average of 25 people were killed in drunk driving crashes each Halloween night.
Halloween Traffic Safety Tips
The best way to stay safe on the road on Halloween is similar to safe driving on any other evening, but with some added precautions. For example:
- Consider reducing speeds below the speed limit on residential streets, where there is an increased likelihood of children running into the street or crossing without looking
- Be extra vigilant for pedestrians coming from unexpected places, as most Halloween pedestrian fatalities happen in the middle of the block where drivers are typically less alert for people crossing the street
- Don’t drink and drive–the everyday dangers of impaired driving are increased when there is more activity on the streets and a greater likelihood of needing to react quickly
For parents and children, key safety strategies include:
- Making sure children who are out after dark are wearing light or reflective clothing–visibility is critical
- Make sure an adult is monitoring younger children, and avoid crossing streets or allowing them to cross in the middle of the block
- Make sure children who are wearing masks are able to see clearly
- Stay in a group when possible–groups are more visible and older kids can help keep track of younger ones
- Make sure footwear fits well and is easy to walk in–the last thing you want is your little princess tripping on her unfamiliar high heel as she’s running across the street
The first goal is always to avoid injury. But, if you or your child has been injured as a pedestrian or in a motor vehicle accident, pursuing fair compensation can help you recover and move forward. To learn more about your rights and options, schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced motor vehicle accident lawyers. Just call 855-4PLEVIN or fill out the contact form on this page.