Between 1990 and 2011, cars striking pedestrians killed 115 children on Oct. 31, according to a national study by State Farm Insurance. The average of 5.5 deaths, more than twice the national average for other days, makes Halloween the deadliest night of the year for pedestrians.
Local police also advise trick-or-treaters to take precautions to ensure drivers can see them when they are out and about.
“We recommend, if you’re wearing a dark costume, to have a little reflective tape,” Jacksonville Police Chief Tommy Thompson said. “Or give your kid a glow stick, just in case you’re stepping out, crossing the street, people see you.”
The recommended time for trick-or-treating in Jacksonville is from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Thompson said, meaning it’ll take place after the sun sets. The most dangerous time for children to be running around is on dark, poorly lit streets, the chief said.
“We recommend an adult go with them,” Thompson said. “Make sure their costumes aren’t going to make them trip and fall down. Don’t want them tripping when crossing the street.”
As for those ‘ripped-from-the-headlines’ type of cautionary tales of razorblades in apples --- they almost never actually occur in real life, Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson said.
“Things are pretty calm in Calhoun County,” Amerson said. “We really don’t have a lot of problems.”
County deputies mainly look out for mundane, harmless pranks on Halloween night, Amerson said, traditional holiday vandalism that includes throwing toilet paper or eggs at houses and cars.
“Like the 4th of July, on Halloween sometimes people will take things a bit too far,” Amerson said. “But we really don’t see any significant bad behavior.”
While not significant, that bad behavior does tend to happen more often on the spooky holiday, Chief Deputy Matthew Wade said. He called Halloween one of the busiest nights of the year for the Sheriff’s Office.
“The county is mostly rural, so we’re not dealing with safety for trick-or-treaters so much as answering calls about criminal mischief and littering,” he said. “It’s usually much later in the night, people stealing decorations, all those kinds of things.”
It’s not too different from what police officers in local cities say they have to deal with on Halloween, said Oxford police Lt. L.G. Owens.
“There aren’t really any cases of someone being malicious to small children or anything like that,” Owens said. “It’s mostly just kids rolling houses.”
The myths and urban legends that spread about Halloween probably originated in a much different time, the Oxford lieutenant said, when people more actively participated in the holiday. Now, he said, hardly anyone but small children and family go walking through neighborhood streets on Oct. 31.
“Halloween isn’t like what it used to be,” said Owens, explaining that teenagers and adults treat the day like any other day of the year. “It’s mostly for really young kids.”
Which means, Owens said, being safe on Halloween isn’t too different from being safe any other day of the year.
“Only go to neighborhoods you know, keep an eye on your kids, go in groups, be mindful of traffic,” Owens said. “It’s just basic common sense stuff.”
Star Staff Writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @Banderson_star