State troopers boost patrols for Halloween; local police work to increase safety for little trick-or-treaters

"Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" DUI sting campaign | Composite image by St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Last year, Halloween had one of the highest rates of alcohol-related crashes of all holidays in Utah and was particularly deadly for pedestrians. With more adults celebrating Halloween, the Utah Highway Patrol will be working extra shifts to make sure everyone gets home safely by removing drunk drivers from Utah roadways.

File photo from Halloween 2014, Santa Clara, Utah, Oct. 31, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Corbin Wade, KCSG-TV, St. George News

Meanwhile, local officers will be making an effort to increase pedestrian safety for thousands of children trick-or-treating.

From Friday through Tuesday, state troopers will be working more than 200 overtime shifts patrolling Utah roads looking for aggressive and intoxicated drivers, part of an enforcement blitz by many agencies around the state.

“The Department of Public Safety wants to remind everyone that if their Halloween plans involve alcohol, it’s imperative that they also include a plan to get home without getting behind the wheel,” Utah Department of Public Safety Lt. Todd Royce said.

Troopers will be working two overtime shifts in Southern Utah as well, UHP Sgt. Evan Kirby told St. George News Friday.

Because Halloween festivities often include alcohol, St. George Police Officer Andy Mickelson advises: “If you are going to any parties or having anyone over, please, if you consume any alcohol, don’t drive, get a ride.”

According to the Utah Department of Transportation, October is the deadliest month in Utah for crashes involving pedestrians and nearly half of all Utah pedestrian fatalities occur between 6 p.m. and midnight.

In the U.S., Halloween drunk-driving fatalities have steadily increased. In 2011, 17 people lost their lives, while in 2015 fatalities rose to 55.

Individuals between the ages of 21 to 34 accounted for 64 percent of those killed during Halloween night in 2015, the highest number of any age group.

You can stay safe and protect your neighbors by following these tips:

  • Remember that it is never OK to drink and drive. Even if you’ve had one alcoholic beverage, designate a sober driver or plan to use public transportation to get home safely.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “SaferRide” program allows users to call a taxi or a predetermined friend and identifies the user’s location so they can be picked up. The SaferRide mobile app is available for download.
File photo from Halloween 2014, Santa Clara, Utah, Oct. 31, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Corbin Wade, KCSG-TV, St. George News

Halloween can be even scarier when pedestrians are youngsters

The Centers for Disease Control conducted a comprehensive analysis using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and found that the most dangerous time for a child to be a pedestrian is on Halloween between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m.

For children, the risk of being killed in an auto-pedestrian crash is four times higher during those hours than on any other night of the year.

One risk factor relates to a change in environment, as children spend most of their time outdoors during daylight hours, yet many Halloween-related activities occur primarily after dark.

Additionally, children engaging in trick-or-treat activities frequently dart across the street midblock instead of crossing at corners or crosswalks, wear darker colors that can further limit visibility and often wear masks that restrict their peripheral vision as well as their ability to hear.

Add to that an urge to get the most candy, a higher number of children around and eye-catching costumes and decorations that distract children, while the underlying pressure caused by time constraints can increase the risk even further.

Aside from the problems specific to Halloween, pedestrian skills in children are limited due to their size and motor coordination. Smaller children lack the physical ability to quickly cross the street, are more difficult to see, disregard objects in their peripheral vision and are less attentive than adults.

File photo from Halloween 2014, Santa Clara, Utah, Oct. 31, 2014 | Photo courtesy of Corbin Wade, KCSG-TV, St. George News

Children also choose the fastest route rather than the safest, are unable to anticipate driver behavior and have limited sensory perception that takes longer to process than adults. They also have “magical thinking” that can cause them to believe they are protected and cannot be struck by a car.

Overestimating a child’s ability to navigate on his own can lead to tragic consequences.

Mickelson said that drivers need to take extra care when driving on Halloween, paying special attention to the influx of children that will be out trick-or-treating.

“We want to encourage drivers to be extra careful and watch for pedestrians that will be on all sides of the roads, on all corners and at all intersections, and watch for children darting across the street and coming from different directions,” he said.

To increase pedestrian safety and make sure everyone makes it home unscathed this year, the St. George Police Department’s “Motor Minute” weekly traffic segment with Mickelson can be found on the agency’s Facebook page Monday with tips for drivers as they navigate through streets crowded with trick-or-treaters and Halloween festivities, he said. Find it here. 

Child safety tips and helpful information for parents can be found at Safe Kids Worldwide by clicking here. 

“Utahns can help prevent the tragic deaths and injuries caused by drunk driving by making sure their plans always include a safe and sober ride home,” Royce, of DPS, said.

Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Despite drunk driving fatalities falling by a third in the last three decades they still claim more than 10,000 lives per year.

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1 Comment

  • DRT October 28, 2017 at 8:56 am

    Why does it seem like each month, you have somebody claiming that the current month “is the deadliest month of the year?”

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