As an article in today’s Oregonian warns, Halloween has long been a night when pedestrians and drivers alike need to exercise particular caution. This year, however, the fact that October 31 is also the evening when we move from daylight saving time back to standard time makes tonight especially dangerous.
Halloween has always been a night when everyone should be especially aware of the possibility of injuries to children. In the twilight and early evening hours small children – many wearing dark costumes – are running around residential neighborhoods all over the country. The danger of a car accident rises significantly even for the most careful of drivers. The Oregonian reports that Halloween is traditionally the third-worst day of the year for pedestrian fatalities, surpassed only by New Year’s Day and December 23.
In recent decades, however, Halloween has also emerged as an adult party night with a reputation for drinking and driving that rivals New Year’s Eve. According to today’s article “in 2012 when 54 pedestrians died in car crashes on Halloween nationwide, nearly half of those deaths involved a drunk driver.”
The addition of daylight saving time to this mix adds an extra note of uncertainty and potential danger. As the paper notes, “while the switch to daylight saving time in the spring is linked to an increase in deaths resulting from drowsy driving after losing an hour of sleep, the fall switch has been linked in at least one study to an increase in fatal accidents the night of the switch.” The theory, according to medical researchers, is “that drivers, anticipating an extra hour of sleep, stay out later and suggest a tie to alcohol consumption.” Combine that with one of the biggest drinking nights of the year and the potential for accidents increases dramatically.
As a Portland attorney whose practice focuses on both injuries to children and the victims of drunk driving I urge everyone to take extra caution this evening. Whether you are taking the kids out to collect candy or hitting the party circuit later in the evening (or both) tonight is a night to be especially aware and to stay safe from start to finish.