It’s almost Halloween–that time of the year when kids in costume flock the streets for candy and a night of spooky fun. Despite its festive vibe, statistics show that Halloween is also one of the deadliest nights of the year, when road accidents spike up and according to a study conducted by the University of British Columbia, the risk of pedestrian death increases by 43%. In fact, the fatality rate for children between four and eight years old is 10 times higher on Halloween than on any other day, and the Department of Transportation reported that pedestrian deaths peaked at 5,987 in 2016.
Let these sobering statistics serve as a reminder to us all to take extra precaution and practice defensive driving this season.
What exactly is defensive driving? It’s a set of road skills that, if observed properly, prepares drivers and their passengers for any possible cause of an accident on the road, including bad or drunk drivers, extreme weather conditions, and a lack of familiarity with the area. It’s especially important for avoiding vehicle-pedestrian collisions.
Before you drive out on Halloween night, make sure you review these 10 defensive driving tips:
1. Be extremely cautious when backing into and out of your driveway.
Children judge situations differently than adults, and may not recognize vehicle warning lights. Many could assume that drivers are always aware of them and that they have the go-signal to continue walking. So before you back out of your driveway, take extra precaution and step out of your vehicle to be absolutely sure the coast is clear. When you get back in your car, don’t rely on your back-up camera or rear and side view mirrors alone to see. Make sure to turn your head and look over your shoulder. Rolling your windows down to better hear what’s going on outside also works to support your limited vision while backing up.
2. Drive slower than the speed limit.
The typical speed limit on urban and residential streets ranges from 15 to 40 mph. It is advisable that you drive below these speeds on Halloween because it’ll be especially darker, as some houses will only have jack-o’-lanterns lit and some will have their porch lights off altogether. Compared to a normal night, there’ll also be triple the number of pedestrians on the street, especially kids, so be sure to drive slowly. The slower you go, the shorter distance you need to bring your car to a full stop.
3. Beware of corners and crosswalks.
Apart from driving slower than the speed limit, you also need to be extra cautious when taking corners and passing through crosswalks. Remember to yield before you turn or pass a crosswalk, even when there’s no pedestrian in sight. Children wearing dark costumes can appear out of nowhere, so take more time than usual before you step on the accelerator.
4. Keep an eye out for children.
Keep in mind that kids can behave unpredictably with little idea of the consequences of their actions. Some may even be trick-or-treating unsupervised and run into the street without checking for oncoming vehicles.
Since many children are short, this could present a problem for drivers with relatively bigger vehicles like trucks and a limited field of vision. It is your responsibility as a driver to scan the area and be aware of kids. They could emerge from in between parked cars and be hard to spot if you’re not paying complete attention to the road in front of you. Having properly functioning headlights is especially important since dark streets make children difficult to see. If you’re experiencing problems with your headlights, be sure to replace them immediately before leaving your driveway on Halloween.
5. If possible, drive around the neighborhood with your windows down.
Sometimes, it isn’t just about what you can see, but also what you can hear. Since you’re driving in a dark area with kids running around, you may also need to rely on your sense of hearing.
6. Don’t get distracted.
When it comes to Halloween, some houses put on full productions, so we know it’s all too easy to get distracted. However, we urge you to keep your eyes on the road. In that split second you take to look at the decorations, a child could dart across the street.
Also, it’s important that you avoid glancing at your phone, smartwatch, or even your infotainment system’s display as much as possible while driving. A lot can happen in a fraction of a second, so don’t risk it. If you need to use your phone, safely park your vehicle on the side of the road and turn your park lights on.
7. Use your lights and indicators to communicate with other drivers.
Utilize your turn signals, hazard lights, and headlights to communicate with other drivers on the road. Hazard lights will signal cars behind you to approach or pass with caution. Remember to use your turn signals when changing lanes or turning.
8. Report any drunk or reckless driver.
If you happen to see a drunk or reckless driver, immediately dial 911 and report them. Do not follow them or confront them yourself. Either can result in an even more dangerous outcome. Take note of the car’s license plate number and vehicle description (color, make, and model) so you can tell the authorities which vehicle to look for.
9. Do not drink and drive.
If you’re coming from a party where alcohol is involved, make sure there is a designated driver to bring you and your friends home. When faced with a friend who is trying to drive under the influence, stand your ground and insist that they get a ride from someone who is completely sober.
10. Make sure your car is working properly before driving on Halloween night.
Finally, remember to check your brakes, replace failing headlights, and make sure your warning lights are working properly. Driving with any faulty parts will only increase your risk of getting involved in an accident and putting pedestrians at risk.
Stay safe, and have a happy Halloween!