As Halloween approaches and children are anticipating a night full of candy, costumes, and laughter, we’re reminded that the holiday becomes a sobering one for many families. For child pedestrians, Halloween is the deadliest day of the year.

In fact, the risk of a pedestrian fatality is 43% higher on Halloween, according to a study from the Journal of the American Medical Association. If you’re a San Diego driver who plans to get behind the wheel at some point on Halloween, it’s critical that you employ your best driving habits. Another’s life might depend on it!

Here are eight essential tips for all San Diego drivers to keep in mind during this year’s Halloween festivities.

1. Take your foot off the gas

Speeding is a factor in roughly 25% of all San Diego car accidents. Because drivers are shielded by their vehicles and restrained by their seatbelts, however, there are many who are able to escape their collisions unscathed.

Pedestrians aren’t afforded nearly the same protection. Especially on back roads where children are constantly darting out into the street, the consequences of a lead foot can be fatal.

Remember to slow down, always obey the posted limit, and keep an eye out for pedestrians!

2. Avoid driving at night when possible

While there’s still daylight, it’s fairly easy to spot pedestrians who cross the road or enter traffic. Unfortunately, most of Halloween’s trick-or-treating events occur at night, long after the sun has set—making it difficult for drivers to spot pedestrians.

What’s more, children aren’t likely to wear reflective clothing. Some of the most popular Halloween costumes consist of dark colors that are nearly impossible to spot at night.

For this reason, avoid driving at night if you have the option. If you’re attending or hosting a party, consider ending the fun before the sun goes down.

3. Don’t drink and drive

It should go without saying that drinking and driving is never acceptable, regardless of the circumstances. But on a night like Halloween, the repercussions can be disastrous.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 14% of the pedestrian fatalities on Halloween night from 2012-2016 involved drunk drivers.

The reality is that many adult Halloween parties include alcohol consumption. If you plan to attend one of these events and have a drink, avoid putting yourself in a position where you might be tempted to get behind the wheel.

Instead, arrange for a designated driver to take you home or hand your keys to someone who will keep you accountable.

4. Put the phone away

Fewer than half of states ban the use of handheld devices while driving, yet it’s estimated that a whopping 1.6 million crashes are caused by cell phone use each year.

Although your state’s legislation may not outright prohibit the use of a cell phone while driving, there is little debate that using a handheld device while operating a vehicle is dangerous. Unfortunately, even the slightest lapse in concentration can reduce your reaction time.

If you find yourself in a position where you absolutely must use your cell phone, make sure you pull over to a safe spot before texting or fielding a call.

5. Pay extra attention to your surroundings

Distracted driving is defined as any activity that diverts attention from driving. This includes not only texting but also eating, drinking, fiddling, and any other activities that might prevent you from giving the road your full attention.  

Given all of the extra activity and commotion that occurs on Halloween, it’s wise to remove all distractions while you’re behind the wheel. Instead, pay extra attention to the road, pedestrians, and your surroundings.

Simply being more aware can provide you with enough time to react to other drivers and pedestrians in dangerous scenarios.

6. Know when to yield for pedestrians

Pedestrians don’t always have the right of way. Unless there is a crosswalk or walk sign at an intersection, pedestrians are typically required to yield the right of way to vehicles.

Yet, many pedestrians recklessly cross the road when they should be yielding to oncoming traffic. What’s more, young children may be unaware of the dangers of crossing the street or may not know how to cross the street safely. Simply being mindful of this can help you avoid a collision with a pedestrian.

Yield to pedestrians where there are clear road markings and traffic lights; and even when you have the right of way at a particular intersection, yield to pedestrians if they are already crossing the road or are in danger.

While there may be a line of impatient drivers in your rearview, it’s better to avoid any semblance of danger than to risk an incident.

7. Drop off your child safely

Part of being a safe and responsible driver is ensuring the safety of your passengers. If you are driving children from one location to another, make sure you aren’t putting them in harm’s way when they become pedestrians.

If you are dropping children off at a party or friend’s house, avoid making them cross the street. Instead, drop them off as close to their location as possible so that they can avoid all traffic.

If you need to use the curb, be sure to engage your hazard lights so that other drivers know to drive cautiously.

8. Take extra caution when backing up

Pedestrian fatalities don’t always occur when vehicles are traveling at full high speeds. Each year, approximately 91,000 people are injured in non-traffic motor vehicle crashes. 39% of these injuries are to non-occupants, such as pedestrians and bicyclists.

A maneuver as simple as backing out of a parking spot can be especially dangerous on Halloween, as children may go unseen in your side and rearview mirrors.

If possible, avoid parking in spaces that will require you to reverse out of them. If there’s no way around backing into or out of a parking space, ask an adult outside to confirm that there are no children in the way of your vehicle as you enter or exit the spot.

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