Children are more likely to be struck and killed by a vehicle on Halloween than on any other day of the year.
Different sources indicate that children are two, three or even four times more likely to be struck on Halloween, a holiday for make-believe witches, ghosts and goblins that can become an all-too-real nightmare.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 41.1 million children, ages 5 to 14, will head out for trick-or-treating this year.
In Clark County, with the Halloween forecast calling for clear skies but chilly temperatures, it could be a busy night for children decked out in costumes going door to door.
Kanessa Thompson, community relations coordinator for AMR Clark County, said her biggest safety tip is to make sure trick-or-treaters can be seen.
“We all want to wear the dark costumes for Halloween, but we need to be seen,” said Thompson, who also coordinates Safe Kids Clark County, with AMR as its lead agency. “For my kids, I bought glow sticks.”
“Just be visible,” she said. “Try to stay in lighted areas, anything along those lines, so you can be seen.”
For drivers, her No. 1 piece of advice is don’t drive after using alcohol, marijuana or other drugs.
On Halloween night 2014, a driver under the influence of marijuana and methamphetamine struck two adults and two children while they were on a sidewalk along Northeast 112th Avenue near 39th Street in Vancouver.
One member of the group, a 7-year-old girl, died two days later at a Portland hospital. The driver, Duane C. Abbott, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and three counts of vehicular assault and was sentenced to 16 1/2 years in prison.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 42 percent of people killed in Halloween night crashes, from 2013 to 2017, involved at least one drunken driver.
Thompson said her other advice to drivers is be aware and vigilant.
“Know that these kiddos are going to be out,” she said. “Be a little more cautious than you normally would. Stay off your phone.”
Drivers also should slow down when kids are trick-or-treating, generally 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., and follow the “20 is plenty” rule of driving 20 mph in residential areas.
According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a pedestrian hit by a vehicle traveling 20 mph has an 18 percent risk of severe injury or death, compared with a 47 percent risk when struck by a vehicle at 30 mph.
Here are some other safety tips for drivers and parents of trick-or-treaters:
• Turn on your headlights well before dusk. Not only do they help you see, but children are more likely to see you.
• Be particularly careful at intersections or when pulling in and backing out of driveways. Trick-or-treaters may suddenly step out from behind parked cars.
• Drive defensively. Children can be easily distracted and make poor decisions, including darting across a road without looking.
• Stay off your phone, don’t fuss with the stereo, eat a cheeseburger or do anything that will distract you from the road.
• Decorate costumes with reflective tape or stickers so children can be better seen by drivers.
• Select costumes that don’t have tripping hazards, such as capes that fall below the knee.
• Avoid masks since they can impair a child’s vision. Consider using face paint or makeup instead.
• Don’t allow children younger than 12 to trick-or-treat without adult supervision.
• Teach children to look both ways before crossing a street and to continue watching while crossing.
• Tell children to try to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of traffic.
• Always walk with trick-or-treaters on the sidewalk, if available. If there is no sidewalk, walk facing oncoming traffic as far left as possible.