Safety tips for trick-or-treaters and for motorists on a scary, dangerous night

Traffic talk

October 30, 2005|By JODY K. VILSCHICK

Halloween really scares me. Why? Because of all the risks my two young candy panhandlers face as they go door to door trick-or- treating.

Although most of the time children spend outdoors is typically during daylight hours, most trick-or-treating takes place after dark. In the excitement of the night, trick-or-treaters frequently cross streets at midblock rather than at corners or crosswalks, putting them at risk of being hit by motorists.

Many parents overestimate the street-crossing skills of children. The pedestrian skills of children are limited not only by their size and developmental stage, but trailing costumes and plastic pumpkin pails overflowing with candy can further hamper their ability to move quickly.

Children often are not visible to drivers, increasing the danger. And children are likely to choose the shortest, rather than the safest, route across streets, often darting between parked cars.

The best bet -- don't drive on Halloween night. But if you can't avoid driving in neighborhoods where there are likely to be trick-or-treaters, follow these tips to help ensure our favorite little witches, monsters and princesses escape the very real dangers of this night.

When walking in neighborhoods, our young ghosts and goblins should:

Use flashlights after dark to light their way and to bring more attention to them.

Stay on sidewalks, cross streets at the corner, use crosswalks (where they exist), and not cross between parked cars.

Stop at all corners and stay together in a group before crossing.

Wear clothing that is bright and reflective.

Wear face paint instead of masks. (Masks can obstruct a child's vision.)

Avoid wearing hats that slide over the eyes, and avoid wearing long, baggy, or loose costumes or oversized shoes (to prevent tripping).

Be reminded to look left, right, and left again before crossing streets.

Be supervised as they cross streets if they are younger than age 12.

Motorists should ensure the safety of pedestrian trick-or-treaters:

Drive slowly and in the center of the lane, leaving plenty of room between the car and the sidewalk.

Exercise extra caution during peak trick-or-treating hours, between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Watch for children in the street and on medians, or darting between parked cars.

Exit driveways and alleyways carefully.

Have children get out of cars on the curb side, not the traffic side.

The State Highway Administration's "Vests for Visibility" program provides safety vests for parents to borrow -- free of charge -- to place over children's Halloween costumes. The vests will be available in most counties at SHA maintenance shops between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. tomorrow. A limited number of reflective vests will be lent out on a first-come, first-served basis, so you may want to call ahead. SHA's Dayton Maintenance Shop in Howard County is at 4401 Route 32, Dayton; 410-531-5533.

Reader's response

Claude Bouchard Jr., who offered himself as a "guest columnist," has been keeping his comments pent up for several weeks, but finally he decided to respond to a number of complaints in recent columns about driving situations near neighborhoods on Route 99, as well as off Old Columbia Road near U.S. 40.

"Why does government have to fix every single problem out there, especially when it's a result of choices made by individuals?" he wondered.

He acknowledged that some intersections are indeed poorly designed, and these should be fixed. "What I don't understand is why people choose to live in specific developments and then complain about how difficult it is to get in or out. They should have thought of that before," he admonished. "Why should my tax dollars be spent to fix a nonexistent problem that, in theory, is a result of their lack of judgment and forethought?"

School buses

What are your experiences and observations about Howard County's school buses? Are they driven safely? Do motorists drive safely around them?

And bus drivers -- let's hear from you. What are your experiences behind the wheel? And what are the biggest concerns you face on your daily routes?

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at TrafficTalk@comcast.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. Include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published or receive a response.

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