Halloween a Top Holiday for Drinking and Driving

Washington's Regional Alcohol Program is among groups discouraging drunk driving on Halloween. (wrap.org)
As if ghosts and goblins weren't enough to fear—or even urban legends about poisoned candy and razor blades in apples—Halloween is becoming one of the most dangerous nights of the year for drunk driving.

Halloween has joined July 4, St. Patrick's Day, New Year's and Super Bowl Sunday as high-risk days for alcohol-related traffic deaths. Drunk-driving opponents are particularly wary this year, because Oct. 31 falls on a Friday, typically a heavy-drinking night because many people don't have to get up for work the next morning.


There were 109 alcohol-related traffic fatalities in the United States last Halloween, which fell on a Thursday, according to statistics on the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Web site.


Halloween is now the leading holiday for DUI arrests in metropolitan Nashville, Tenn., according The Tennessean. The paper quoted an officer who said Halloween only recently overtook St. Patrick's Day because police in the past probably didn't take enforcement as seriously as on other drinking holidays.


MADD is conducting a petition drive to encourage law enforcement to crack down on drinking and driving this Halloween. The group had collected nearly 9,500 on-line signatures by mid-Thursday, short of a goal of 17,149—the number of people killed in alcohol-related crashes last year.


"With law enforcement's help, we can take the real fright out of Halloween," said Wendy Hamilton, MADD national president.


More people were killed by drunk drivers on Halloween in 1999 than on New Year's Eve and St. Patrick's Day combined, said Kurt Gregory Erickson, executive director of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program.


The National Commission Against Drunk Driving, in a corporate partnership with AT&T Wireless, includes Halloween--along with December/January holiday season, St. Patrick's Day and Independence Day—among days it offers free cab rides to would-be holiday drunk drivers through a trademarked program called SoberRide.


In addition to focusing on drunk driving, other groups also oppose the use of Halloween themes in beer advertisements, a practice they say promotes underage drinking. The Washington-based Coalition on Alcohol Advertising and Family Education has since 1994 sponsored a national campaign called "Hands Off Halloween" to promote responsible alcohol advertising.


Children are four times more likely to be killed by a pedestrian injury on Halloween than on any other night of the year, according to a 1997 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


The National Highway Safety Administration urges motorists to exercise extra caution on Halloween night, and for parents to review pedestrian safety rules with their children before trick-or-treating. The NHSA Web site offers the following tips for Halloween safety.


Tips for Motorists:


--Slow down. Watch for children walking on roads, medians and curbs. Enter and exit driveways carefully.


--Be especially alert for children darting out from between parked vehicles and from behind bushes and shrubs. They're excited--and they are not paying attention.


--Never drink and drive--tonight or any night. If you are partying, designate a driver.


Tips for Parents:


--Adults should accompany children at all times and supervise their "trick or treat" activities.


--Teach children to "stop, look left-right-left, and listen" before they cross the street.


--Use a flashlight and wear retro-reflective strips or patches on your clothing or costume to be more visible to motorists.


--Be certain that the mask does not obstruct vision or hearing.


--Ensure that costumes do not impede walking or driving ability.


Tips for Pedestrians (children and adults):


--Before crossing a street, stop at the curb or edge of the road and look left, right and left again to be sure no cars are coming. Continue to check for traffic while on the street.


--Walk--never run--from house to house or across the road.


--Cross the street only at intersections and crosswalks.


--When crossing at an intersection with a traffic light, be sure to watch for turning cars. Obey all pedestrian signals.


--Walk on sidewalks whenever possible. If there are no sidewalks, walk on the left side of the street facing traffic


Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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