A day meant for candy, costumes and trick-or-treating can quickly become a nightmare for parents. Halloween is consistently one of the top three days for pedestrian injuries and fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that children are four times more likely to be struck by a motor vehicle on Halloween than any other day of the year.
“We are not trying to take the fun out of the holiday, but it’s important for families to be proactive,” said Rebecca Melvin, UF Health TraumaOne education coordinator. “Adults and children should not depend on motorists to see them.”
Every year in October, UF Health TraumaOne visits at least one elementary school to raise awareness about pedestrian safety through their Walk Safe Day Trauma Prevention Program. Staff walk from classroom to classroom and provide a 10-minute presentation on ways students can be safe on the streets.
“We tell children to walk during daylight hours with friends, not to go down unfamiliar streets, watch out for potholes and raised cracks on sidewalks and to wear light-colored clothing,” Melvin said. “If they are walking to school at dawn in a neighborhood without sidewalks, they should have something reflective on their clothing or backpack, and be accompanied by an adult if possible.”
Every student who hears the presentation receives a drawstring backpack filled with pedestrian safety information, reflective accessories and a blinking light for them to use to ensure they are visible. UF Health TraumaOne typically gives away around 760 bags every year.
“We use this opportunity to also focus on Halloween safety and remind students not to wear masks, which can make it harder for them to see a car, or dark face paint and colors that can make it hard for a driver to see them,” Melvin said. “If a child lives in a high-crime neighborhood, we encourage them to join a group of friends and have an adult take them to a safer neighborhood to trick-or-treat.”
Nearly one-fourth of fatal child pedestrian accidents on Halloween occurred between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., and more than 60 percent of the accidents occurred in the four-hour period from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., according to a study conducted by Sperling’s BestPlaces and State Farm Insurance.
“Children involved in pedestrian accidents can suffer a wide range of injuries, including minor scratches and bruises, broken bones, internal bleeding or a life-threatening traumatic brain injury,” said David Ebler, MD, medical director of UF Health TraumaOne. “These types of accidents often happen quickly even with adult supervision. That’s why it’s important to do everything you can to make yourself as visible as possible.”
TraumaOne encourages drivers to avoid all distractions, turn off the radio, put down the smartphone and be alert for the unexpected on and around the Halloween holiday. To learn more about the Walk Safe Day program, contact the Trauma Prevention Program at Trauma1@jax.ufl.edu or 904.244.3400.