Should Cars Be Banned on Halloween? — Deadliest Day for Kids

Halloween is the favorite holiday of many children. It’s the chance to dress up in a fun costume and get a stash of tasty candy. Unfortunately, Halloween is also dangerous for kids — but not in the way you might think. Common concerns include nefarious individuals that put razor blades or marijuana in candy — and, more recently, the pandemic. However, there is another danger that makes Halloween the deadliest day of the year for children: car crashes. With this in mind, should cars be banned on Halloween in neighborhoods with trick-or-treating?

More children die on Halloween from car crashes than on any other day of the year

Person in ghost costume on street, highlighting if cars should be banned on Halloween, deadliest day for kids
Person dressed up as a ghost | Danilo Alvesd via Unsplash

Halloween is by far and away the deadliest day of the year for car crashes with children. According to the Washington Post, 54 kids died in car accidents on Halloween between 2004 and 2018. Children are three times as likely to die in a car accident compared to the other days of the year. During the 15 years of the study, no other day had more than 30 deaths — and most days had considerably fewer. 

Also, a similar study released by JAMA Pediatrics “found that children ages 4 to 8 were about 10 times more likely to be killed in the evening on Halloween than they were during other autumn evenings.” The study also found that 6:00 pm was the peak time for trick-or-treater deaths from car crashes. The likely reason for this is the combination of rush hour traffic and when it starts getting dark outside in many parts of the country.

Overall increase in pedestrian deaths in recent years

Person in scarecrow costume in front of car, highlighting if cars should be banned on Halloween, deadliest day for kids
Scarecrow costume with suit | Jakob Owens via Unsplash

The high number of deaths for children on Halloween coincides with a worrying trend of an overall increase in pedestrian deaths in recent years. The Washington Post details how more pedestrians and cyclists died when hit by cars in 2018 than in any other year since 1990. Also, this is an increase of 33% in pedestrian fatalities since 2009. Furthermore, 17% of traffic deaths in 2018 were pedestrians. 

Ban car traffic in neighborhoods with trick-or-treating on Halloween

The chance of dying on Halloween from a car crash is very low when considering the millions of trick-or-treaters. However, the higher death toll is still a cause for concern. When you have many kids crossing streets at night, it’s a recipe for disaster. Also, traffic tends to be more severe on Halloween. Furthermore, the problem is exasperated by many adults that get drunk on the holiday. 

There are some solutions to address the traffic fatality problem for kids on Halloween. For one, neighborhoods with trick-or-treating can temporarily ban traffic. Some cities have already successfully established small car-free zones on Halloween. As detailed by Slate, Seattle started a “Trick or Streets” program in 2020 in which residents can obtain free permits to close streets for Halloween activities. Also, in St. Petersburg, Florida, there’s a “Halloween on Central” event, where the city closes 20 blocks of Central Avenue to traffic. 

Furthermore, we could make Halloween a national slow-driving day, with awareness campaigns to encourage drivers to be on high alert for pedestrians. Additional safety measures to reduce car accident deaths include encouraging children to use flashlights and wear reflective tape when trick-or-treating.

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