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Halloween can be frightening for both drivers and pedestrians

October 25, 2010

AMES, Iowa – Oct. 25, 2010 – Little ghouls and goblins will be roaming the streets for trick-or-treat night over this Halloween weekend. Increased pedestrian traffic at twilight and throughout the evening means drivers need to be more mindful than ever to scan streets and intersections for pedestrians. 

According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study that examined motor-vehicle-related deaths over a 20-year period, the number of childhood pedestrian deaths increased by fourfold among elementary and middle school-aged children on Halloween evenings when compared with all other evenings. 

Excitement may overtake judgment for some trick-or-treaters., Young children may not understand they lack the physical ability to cross a street quickly, and their small size limits their visibility to drivers. Children are likely to choose the shortest, rather than the safest route, to cross streets, often darting out between parked cars. In addition, young children do not evaluate potential traffic threats effectively, cannot anticipate driver behavior and process sensory information slower than adults. 

Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) statistics for 2009 show nine pedestrians were injured in Iowa from Oct. 28-31. In 2008, two pedestrians were killed during this time period. One fatality was recorded in 2007. During the three days prior to and including Oct. 31, 10 pedestrians sustained major injuries and 34 received minor injuries in vehicle/pedestrian crashes that occurred in the years 2001 through 2007. 

"On trick-or-treat evening, we're placing our children in some of the most dangerous traffic situations," said Milly Ortiz-Pagan, pedestrian coordinator in the Iowa DOT's Office of Systems Planning. "Our children are outside after dark, they walk on and cross unfamiliar streets, and they often wear dark colors difficult for motorists to see. Pedestrian safety is a shared responsibility of drivers, parents and children." 

Safety tips for drivers

  • Slow down in residential neighborhoods and school zones.  
  • Be on the alert for children at intersections, in the street, on curbs, and on raised medians.
  • Slowly and carefully exit driveways and alleyways.
  • Concentrate on the driving task and avoid distractions.

The Safe Kids Coalition encourages parents to use Halloween as an opportunity to remind children of the rules for navigating the streets and sidewalks, and to take precautions to ensure that their costumed kids will be seen by drivers. 

Safety tips for parents and children

  • Accompany young children. Children under age 12 should always be accompanied by an adult or an older, responsible child.  
  • See and be seen. Kids should carry glow sticks or flashlights to see better in the dark, as well as be seen by drivers. Costumes and bags should be decorated with retro-reflective tape or stickers and, if possible, made of light colors.
  • Cross streets safely. Cross at a corner, using traffic signals and crosswalks (where they exist). Look left, right and left again when crossing, and keep looking as you cross.  Walk, don’t run, across the street
  • Walk on sidewalks or pathways. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.
  • Be a safe pedestrian around vehicles. Watch for vehicles that are turning or backing up. Never dart out into the street or cross in between parked cars. When exiting a vehicle, get out of the vehicle on the curb side - not on the traffic side.
  • Get painted! Face paint and makeup are a better choice for children because they do not hinder vision the way that masks can. Avoid wearing hats that may slide down and cover the eyes.
  • Prevent tripping and falls. Avoid wearing long, baggy or loose costumes or oversized shoes.


Contact: Milly Ortiz-Pagan, 515-233-7733 or milly.ortiz-pagan@dot.iowa.gov


Iowa highway in the evening