(CN) — Screaming some scary numbers for the holiday, public health experts warned that pedestrians are 43 percent more likely to be killed in a crash on Halloween than on other nights.
Published on Tuesday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, the study led by Dr. John Staples studied the number of pedestrian fatalities that occurred from 5 p.m. to midnight on Oct. 31 between 2016 and 1975, the first year such data was collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
After counting 608 deaths during trick-or-treating hours on 42 years of Halloween nights, the researchers looked at control evenings in the week preceding and following the holiday. Finding 851 pedestrian fatalities on the control evenings between Oct. 24 and Nov. 7, the researchers said the average Halloween resulted in four additional pedestrian deaths.
The entire study included 1,580,608 fatal traffic crashes that involved 268,468 pedestrians and 2,333,302 drivers.
One key observation was that the risk was highest among children: pedestrian-fatality risks increased by a factor of 10 on Halloween for those between the ages of 4 and 8.
Pointing to Halloween’s popularity among adolescents and teens, as well, the study cites that the trouble with masks that restrict peripheral vision and alcohol impairment. Researchers found that the highest risk of fatality was at about 6 p.m.
Urban roads appear to be more dangerous for Halloween fatalities than rural roads, with 404 deaths over the 42-year period.
Offering some solutions for the dangers of street-crossing safety and reduced visibility due to costumes, the study suggests limiting on-street parking and more reflective patches on clothing.
Staples noted that these precautions be a year-round commitment to prevent fatalities, however, and not just rolled out on Oct. 31.
“Trick-or-treating should not be abolished in a misguided effort to eliminate Halloween-associated risk,” says Staples. “Instead, policymakers, physicians, and parents should act to make residential streets safer for pedestrians on Halloween and throughout the year.”
The study was approved by the research ethics board at the University of British Columbia.