Fallen items on the ground in front of a car
Halloween safety Photo illustration by Daniel A. Anderson / University Communications

Caution! The potential for automobile versus trick-or-treater accidents is more pronounced this year, says Dr. Frederico Vaca, because Halloween falls on a Friday – prime party time.

Vaca, Center for Trauma & Injury Prevention Research director at UC Irvine, says drivers rushing to get to a party or driving home after happy hour present a significant risk to trick-or-treaters. One inattentive, impaired or distracted driver can do a lot of damage, even traveling only 10-15 mph on a residential street. A car hitting a small child at that speed “can launch the child into the air, and the impact on the ground can cause major trauma,” Vaca says. “Pedestrians hit by cars frequently have major head, chest or extremity injuries. Unfortunately, some suffer long-term disabilities and others don’t survive.” He notes that motor vehicle accidents are the No. 1 cause of death for children.

Attentive parents can help reduce the risk, and Vaca shares advice on how:

  • Tell your trick-or-treaters to stay away from high-traffic areas.
  • Make children extra aware of cars on the road and practice defensive walking. Do not assume that drivers can see or will slow down for you as you cross streets or driveways.
  • Choose light- or bright-colored costumes that can be seen easily in the twilight or dark. For dark costumes, add reflective tape for visibility.
  • Never allow children to run, dart suddenly into the street, or take shortcuts across yards or between parked cars.
  • Stay engaged; don’t lose focus chatting with neighbors. “If a parent gets distracted, it is very easy to lose sight of a child,” Vaca says, “and they may be down the street before you can catch up.”
  • Parents need to model the safety behavior they expect of their children.

“Sit the kids down and lay down the rules before trick-or-treating begins,” Vaca says.

Once the celebrating is finished, parents should inspect candy and toss out anything that’s not fully wrapped or sealed, he says. While instances of tampered Halloween sweets are rare, “unfortunately there are some people out there who choose to do the wrong thing.”

The precautions should not take the delight out of day, Vaca says. “Halloween is a great time for family fun, and there is no need to be paranoid. But there are dangers,” says Vaca. “Luckily, taking a few precautions and paying close attention reduces those risks.”