If there is any night of the year when extra-cautious driving and attention to pedestrian safety are required in residential areas it is Halloween. Small children are everywhere, running up and down streets, many of them dressed in dark costumes as the sun sets. The news spreading around the northwest today is of a terrible accident that appears to have brought this fact home in the worst possible way.
According to The Oregonian “two girls, ages 6 and 7, and a 20-year-old woman were in critical condition with life-threatening injuries on Saturday morning, police said. The woman was reportedly put into a medically-induced coma.” This was the tragic outcome of an apparent Washington drunk or impaired driving incident in which “a Ford Mustang… jumped the curb and struck a group of trick-or-treaters on a Vancouver sidewalk Friday night.” The newspaper adds that, according to police, the man driving the car “was likely speeding and driving impaired.” A 33-year-old woman also suffered broken bones in the Washington car accident.
Police say the driver, a 47-year-old male, only came to a stop after hitting a pole. He is reported to have only minor injuries. The paper reports that toxicology tests are still being conducted but the police already suspect that drugs may also have been a factor in the driver’s impairment.
As though all that were not enough, the newspaper adds that “chaos revisited the scene about 1:30am, when a suspected drunk driver crashed through traffic barriers set up on 112th Avenue… traffic investigators and a tow truck operator were forced to jump out of the way of the speeding car,” which eventually crashed into a guardrail following a short police chase.
As a Portland attorney who helps drunk driving victims in Washington, last night’s events offer several lessons. First and foremost there is pedestrian safety, especially the safety of children. As I said at the beginning of this post, if there is any evening when everyone on the road should be extra-careful it is Halloween. The later accident, however, reminds us of an often-overlooked aspect of October 31. Here in the United States, Halloween is not just a children’s holiday. Indeed, among adults it is second only to New Year’s Eve as a time for over-indulgence in alcohol. Dialing back the association of Halloween and drinking is clearly both important and necessary. It is time for public awareness campaigns to begin focusing the sort of attention on October 31 that has long been reserved for December 31.