Safety tips can prevent a Halloween scare

TRAFFIC TALK

October 28, 2003|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WITH HALLOWEEN just a couple of nights away and wee ghosts and goblins about to make appearances on our streets, a serious threat of death or injury to trick-or-treaters is very real.

According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of four deaths occur between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Halloween among pedestrians ages 5 to 14, compared with an average of one death during these hours on every other night of the year. Horrible but true, folks, and it underscores the need for everyone - kids, parents and drivers alike - to treat the night with caution.

"On Halloween evening, we place children in some of the most dangerous traffic situations imaginable," said John White, public and government relations manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "Children are outside after dark, wearing dark costumes, frequently walking on and crossing unfamiliar streets, and motorists sometimes find it difficult to see smaller, younger trick-or-treaters."

If you plan to enjoy a traditional Halloween, here are a few safety tips recommended by AAA.

Children should:

Try to trick-or-treat when it is still light outside.

Make sure that your costume is light in color. In addition, use reflective tape on your costume and treat bag. Carry glow-in-the-dark accessories, too.

Carry a flashlight so you can see and be seen easily. Avoid shining flashlights in the eyes of oncoming drivers.

Use makeup instead of a mask. You can get a great dramatic look, and you'll be able to see a lot better.

Trick-or-treat with a group.

Cross streets only at corners. Never cross between parked vehicles or in mid-block.

Tell your family on which streets you will be trick-or-treating or, better yet, bring a family member along.

Always walk facing traffic if sidewalks aren't available.

Parents should:

Plan the trick-or-treating route and include only neighborhoods you know.

Accompany children younger than age 12.

Make sure children older than age 12 travel in small groups and follow a strict curfew.

Make sure children's costumes incorporate reflective tape and glow-in-the-dark accessories.

Motorists should:

Slow down; try driving 5 mph slower than the posted speed limit to give you extra time to react when - not if - children dart out in front of you.

Be alert to children crossing the street between parked cars or in the middle of the block.

Broaden your scan - look left and right into yards and front porches.

Turn your on lights even in daylight because your headlights lights make you more visible.

Arrive home a little earlier on Halloween. Make sure you have all your treats ready so you can avoid that last-minute rush to the store.

"Keeping kids safe is a huge challenge on Halloween," White said. "As kids run from house to house trick-or-treating, they are focused on candy and fun. Motorists and parents need to look out for them and take steps to protect our young trick-or-treaters by outfitting them correctly and advising them about traffic safety before they make their rounds."

Familiar complaint

Once again, I'm receiving complaints about the moronic motoring masses in Maryland. Why do we native Marylanders have such a bad driving reputation? Here's one such complaint from Doug Dribben: "I have lived in several states and foreign countries, and am now living in Maryland. I have never seen, until Maryland, drivers who insist on driving in the left-most lane of a multiple-lane road when the other lanes are not clogged with traffic," he said in a recent e-mail.

"As a result, I often see two Maryland-tagged vehicles driving in the left lane, and the front vehicle is often the slower of the two, resulting in a confrontation as it refuses to move right to allow the faster vehicle to pass on the left. I know that passing on the right in Maryland is legal, but it is not common elsewhere. Is driving in the left-most lane taught in Maryland driving schools, is it a reflection of Marylanders' generally left-leaning politics, is it rudeness to the drivers behind who are going faster, a sense of entitlement to the left lane, or is it something else?"

As far as I know, politics doesn't dictate driving style, so don't go blaming it on that. Some of the most conservative Republicans I know are aggressive, left-lane cruisers, while other far-right types of my acquaintance are completely (perhaps even self-righteously) followers of speed limits.

And my admittedly anecdotal observations of radical lefties (judging by type of car - old, old Toyota Tercels or similar models with Greenpeace bumper stickers and other far-left-of-center bumper messages) are the take-it-slow-and-easy types (in other words, maddening to be behind them). Driving style is simply driving style, or a mix of driving style and some poorly thought-out driving decisions, not an indication of political leaning.

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at elison@us.net, send faxes to 410-715-2816 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 30 Corporate Center, 10440 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 820, Columbia, 21044. Please include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published or receive a response.

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