October 27, 2017

It’s the scariest night of the year — how to keep children safe on Halloween

Keeping the frights imaginary and fun

Safety experts at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt know Halloween can be scary, but for different reasons than you think. On average, twice as many children are killed while walking on Halloween than on any other day of the year.*

“The excitement of the night can get the better of kids, and they may run out into the street without thinking,” said Purnima Unni, MPH, Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program Manager at Children’s Hospital. “Pedestrian injuries are usually high every year around Halloween, and it’s not always the fault of drivers. Children might be wearing masks that make it difficult for them to see when they cross the street, or they can trip on loose costumes.”

As children prepare for a fun-filled night of trick-or-treating, a few precautionary measures could prevent vehicle-related deaths and other injuries.

Unni suggests parents talk to their children about being mindful of cars while trick-or-treating. Additionally, make children more visible to drivers by placing something reflective on costumes and trick-or-treat bags. Glow sticks or flashlights are helpful tools so that children can both see and be seen.

Drivers are urged to be overly cautious, slow down on neighborhood roads and avoid using mobile devices that can cause distractions.

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt recommends these tips to keep children safe on Halloween:

  • Keep creative costumes safe. The most important thing is to make sure children can be seen by drivers. Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers, and if possible, choose light colors. When selecting a costume, make sure it is the right size to prevent trips and falls. Masks can obstruct vision, so choose nontoxic face paint and makeup whenever possible. Carry glow sticks or flashlights so you can both see as well as be seen by drivers.
  • Walk safely by crossing the street at corners and using traffic signals and crosswalks. Look left, right, and left again when crossing, and keep looking as you cross. Make sure to make eye contact with the driver of the car before you cross in front of it.
  • Put electronic devices down and keep your head up. Walk—don’t run—across the street.
  • Walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic and as far to the left as possible.
  • Slow down and stay alert. Watch out for cars that are turning or backing up, and don’t dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.


  • Slow down in residential neighborhoods, particularly during the peak trick-or-treating hours from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.
  • Be especially alert and take extra time to look for children at intersections, on medians and on curbs. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.
  • Reduce any distractions inside your car, such as talking on the phone or eating, so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.

For additional Halloween safety information, visit Children’s Hospital’s injury prevention website or review safety tips from Safe Kids USA.

*Data according to Safe Kids Cumberland Valley. Safe Kids Cumberland Valley works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the No. 1 cause of death for children in the United States. Safe Kids Cumberland Valley is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury. Safe Kids Cumberland Valley was founded in 2003 and is led by Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. For more information, visitsafekids.org.