Bottom Line: Children in the United States celebrate Halloween by going door-to-door collecting candy. New research suggests the popular October 31 holiday is associated with increased pedestrian traffic fatalities, especially among children. Researchers used data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to compare the number of pedestrian fatalities from 1975 to 2016 that happened on October 31 each year between 5 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. with those that happened during the same hours on a day one week earlier (on October 24) and a day one week later (on November 7). During the 42-year study period, 608 pedestrian fatalities happened on the 42 Halloween evenings, whereas 851 pedestrian fatalities happened on the 84 other evenings used for comparison. The relative risk (an expression of probability) of a pedestrian fatality was higher on Halloween than those other nights. Absolute mortality rates averaged 2.07 and 1.45 pedestrian fatalities per hour on Halloween nights and the other evenings, respectively, which is equivalent to the average Halloween resulting in four additional pedestrian deaths each year. The biggest risk was among children ages 4 to 8. Absolute risk of pedestrian fatality per 100 million Americans was small and declined from 4.9 to 2.5 between the first and final decades of the study interval. Ways to prevent Halloween pedestrian fatalities could include slowing down traffic and automated speed enforcement in residential neighborhoods, as well as improving pedestrian visibility by limiting on-street parking and putting reflective patches on children's clothing.
Authors: John A. Staples, M.D., M.P.H., University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, and coauthors
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