The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


October 26, 2012

Auto accidents biggest threat during trick-or-treating

JOPLIN, Mo. — Aside from creepy creatures and bloody decorations, Halloween isn’t really all that scary -- except when it comes to traffic safety.

Despite warnings about tainted candy, candle fires and even child abductions, real Halloween headlines are rarely about any of those things. Instead, tragedies related to the holiday typically involve trick-or-treaters hit by cars.

Fortunately, even those accidents are relatively few in number.

“We get a few calls for people walking in the roadway,” said Sgt. Rusty Rives, of the Joplin Police Department. “Given that it’s Halloween, we get a lot of calls from people complaining about parking, line of sight and traffic congestion.”

Over the past three years, Joplin police reported zero accidents during Halloween trick-or-treating. Carthage police reported one in the same period -- but that was for an accident that happened before the celebration.

Despite stories about candy poisoning, kidnapping and fires, data suggests the most common concern for Halloween is car accidents.

According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation, in four out of six years between 2006 and 2010, more pedestrians under the age of 21 were killed by cars on Oct. 31 than on Oct. 30 or Nov. 1.

The numbers are small: A total of 16 deaths took place on Oct. 31 during those five years, compared to 11 on Oct. 30 and 10 on Nov. 1.

Across the nation last year, children and teenagers trick-or-treating or heading to Halloween parties were injured or killed in Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Egg Harbor Township, N.J., Port Bolivar, Texas, Lower Allen Township, Pa., and Colorado Springs, Colo.

Most cases involved pedestrians hit while crossing streets or walking along roads. One case resulted in a drunk-driving arrest. In another case, parents were injured along with their child.

Pedestrian safety is a prime concern for police on Halloween, Rives said.

“That gets the most attention from us,” Rives said. “Officers are still taking patrol calls, but we try to be most proactive in residential neighborhoods.”

One way to increase pedestrian visibility on Halloween: Have kids carry a flashlight or glowstick, or add glow-in-the-dark necklaces or reflective tape to costumes.

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