Pedestrian Accidents—Not Poisoned Candy—Are the Real Risk on Halloween

Natalie JaroszewskiOctober 26, 2022 4 minutes

A brief intro from Michael Grossman.

Many of us here at Grossman Law Offices are parents. Like most parents, we worry about our kids. Unlike most parents, however, we are confronted daily with painful reminders of just how often children perish in traffic accidents. The one takeaway from our years of representing families who have experienced the loss of a child is this: No client we've represented has ever said, "I wish I had been less protective of my kids."

Be paranoid. Be a helicopter parent. And assume the worst in every driver out there on the road. Sure, let your kids be kids, but also ensure that both they and you understand the risks, and then make a plan to avoid them.

Many parents and guardians remind their tick-or-treaters of various safety tips on Halloween night. Don't eat candy until you get home, stay with friends, and don't go inside anyone's home. Unfortunately, the biggest risk to children on Halloween is actually traffic.

“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.” 

Smart Road Tips for Halloween Safety: Advice for drivers and trick-or-treaters

On Halloween, children take to the streets en masse wearing costumes and with mountains of candy at the forefront of their minds. On the same evening, adults are partying and potentially driving drunk. So, it probably won’t come as a surprise that a 2019 study found the number of pedestrian fatalities on Halloween is 43% higher than on other evenings.

Similarly, a 2011 study reports that children are more than twice as likely to be killed by a car while walking on Halloween night than at any other time of the year. The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that from 2015 to 2019 an average of 25 people were killed in drunk driving crashes each Halloween night (6 pm October 31 to 5:59 am November 1). 

This means Halloween pedestrian fatalities, on average, are children hit by drunk drivers.

Furthermore, preliminary data analysis of pedestrian deaths in 2021 shows that drivers struck and killed 7,485 pedestrians which "was an increase of 12% from the previous year." Additionally, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) found that "the percentage of speeding-related pedestrian deaths among children younger than 15 has more than doubled since 2018, from 5.8% to 11.9%."

Putting these numbers all together creates a grim picture. A pedestrian is already 43% more likely to be hit on Halloween night, and pedestrian deaths are increasing faster than any other traffic fatalities. It is no wonder that safety experts are warning parents to be extra cautious this Halloween.

Pedestrian Fatalities on Halloween Night

According to an NHTSA report in 2014, most pedestrian fatalities on Halloween take place between 5 pm and 9 pm. This is most likely because these are the most popular times to tick-or-treat, and because when the sun sets, visibility is lower than in broad daylight.

Children ages 12-18 account for nearly 50% of all child pedestrian fatalities on Halloween. While children between the ages of 12-15 account for nearly one-third of all pedestrian fatalities on Halloween. Typically parents and guardians trust this age group to trick-or-treat without adult supervision, and this group tends to wear more elaborate costumes (masks can limit vision, unfamiliar shoes can cause falls, etc.) than younger children.

Other contributing factors could be that children are typically not as cautious of traffic as adults, often darting into the road or crossing at odd locations, and costumes/yard decor may be distracting to drivers.

Another terrible piece of this puzzle is that drunk drivers contribute to about 25% of the deadly pedestrian accidents on Halloween.

Impaired Driving on Halloween Night

Many people consider Halloween as a holiday for drinking. A university study found that college students reported having an average of 6.3 drinks on Halloween, and another study found that 9.3% of men and 6.6% of women reported blacking out on Halloween. With this increased intake of alcohol, there is unfortunately also an increase in drunk driving.

  • On Halloween, an impaired driver causes about 1 in every 4 fatal pedestrian accidents.
  • Over 60% of all Halloween night drunk driving accidents happened between 5 pm and 9 pm.
  • Just under 25% of Halloween evening accidents happened between 6 pm and 7 pm, which has led to emergency room workers calling it the “Deadliest Hour."
  • Young drivers, 15-25 years of age, are involved in nearly a third of all fatal child pedestrian accidents on Halloween.

Tips for Safety on Halloween Night

The NHTSA has the below tips for drivers and trick-or-treaters:

Safety Tips for Drivers

  • Be alert for trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Slow down and continue to scan the road in areas where they are likely to be or where sight distances are limited.
  • On Halloween, there will likely be more pedestrians on the roads and in places where they are not expected. Slower speeds save lives.
  • Stay alert for pedestrians who may come out from between parked cars or behind shrubbery. Stop and wait for them to pass.
  • Don’t look at your phone when you’re driving. Your attention needs to always be on the road.
  • If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact law enforcement.

Safety Tips for Pedestrians

  • Walk on a sidewalk if one is available and use crosswalks. 
  • Before the Halloween festivities begin, create a “buddy system” to get each other home safely and prevent walking alone.

Additional Halloween Safety Suggestions

In addition to NHTSA's tips, various other safety organizations and advocates recommend that parents/guardians:

  • Place reflective material on children's costumes/props,
  • have children wear glowsticks,
  • have children only trick-or-treat in well-lit areas of neighborhoods and carry a flashlight,
  • establish a trick-or-treat path that only crosses at designated intersections,
  • teach children to make eye contact with a driver before crossing a street,
  • choose to use facepaint over masks (as masks could limit a child's vision),
  • ensure that trick-or-treaters are in good walking shoes and that there are no pieces on a costume they can trip over.

We're here if you need us.

In general, both pedestrians and drivers need to be aware of one another, especially so on Halloween night. Halloween is a fun holiday, and there is no reason not to celebrate it. However, accidents are, by nature, unexpected.

As with any vehicle collision, you will want to gather as much information as possible. Proving fault is always the responsibility of the victim, and it can be the most difficult part of a case. This means it is vital to seek out an experienced attorney, such as Michael Grossman, right away.

No one expects calamity will happen to them, but awareness of risks and what to do in case the worse occurs, are useful tools to help you in case of disaster.

We wish you all a very safe and fun-filled Halloween!