Opinion: Make Halloween Car-Free

Forget razor blades in apples. Henry Grabar argues the biggest threat on Halloween is much more mundane.

2 minute read

October 17, 2022, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Children in Halloween costumes at a crosswalk with officer offering bowl of candy

Trick-or-treaters at a crosswalk in New Brunswick, New Jersey. | James Nesterwitz / Trick or treaters

In an op-ed for Slate, Henry Grabar uses the annual parent panic over Halloween dangers to highlight another very real and present danger to children: cars. A CDC study showed that children are four times more likely to be killed on Halloween than on any other day.

According to an analysis in the Washington Post, 54 kids were killed by cars on Halloween between 2004 and 2018, making it by far the deadliest day of the year; no other day of the year saw more than 30 deaths across those 15 years, and most saw far less.

Grabar notes that the chance of getting struck by a car is still small, and “no more reason to keep a kid at home on All Hallows’ Eve than fear of fentanyl-flavored Skittles.” But the sharp increase in risk still warrants action, this year in particular. Grabar explains this is in part because “this Halloween falls during a historic surge in bad driving.” On top of that, pandemic-era open streets programs and other experiments with opening up more space to pedestrians have primed cities for changes.

Grabar argues for making Halloween a ‘slow driving’ day, “with trick-or-treat destinations closed to traffic, and everyone else on high alert.” Pointing out that children are known to “have a sixth sense for good design, such as generous lighting, a walkable urban fabric, calm streets, and sidewalk-facing architecture, that adults sometimes struggle to enumerate,” Grabar believes the “trick-or-treat test” should be applied to more of our streets, year-round.

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