Sure, autumn in Bloomington is gorgeous, but did you know that it is also one of the deadliest seasons of the year? In fact, it’s the worst season for pedestrian fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Administration.
This is especially true when the victim is a child. Adults know the rules of the road, whether walking or driving. Kids, on the other hand, are easily distracted and may not understand how to behave safely as a pedestrian or on a bike. That leaves the responsibility for their safety in the hands of drivers ― a frightening thought for those of us who commute daily and know that too many drivers just aren’t paying attention.
Let’s take a look at three autumn events that cause the most pedestrian fatalities.
One-third of child pedestrian fatalities occur in the hours after children are dismissed from school in the afternoon, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). They advise motorists to be especially mindful from 3:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m., slowing down in neighborhoods and school zones.
Remember, as well, the laws about what to do when a school bus is flashing its red lights. In Bloomington, you are to stop at least 20 feet away from the bus and not move your car until the “stop” sign retracts and the red lights stop flashing.
Before the bus turns on the red lights, the driver flashes a set of amber lights. While these are lit, it is illegal to pass the bus on the right.
There’s more to Daylight Savings than setting your clock back an hour in the fall. Carnegie Mellon University scientists claim that pedestrians are three times more likely to be killed by a vehicle when we “fall behind” in autumn (this year we’ll do that before going to bed on October 31, or at 2:00 a.m. on November 1).
"The change that's going to occur [when we set our clocks back] is going to have some pronounced effects on your risks of walking between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.," Carnegie Mellon’s Dr. David Gerard said. "Basically, these are the hours when it's just getting dark. But people walking and people driving won't have adjusted. The baseline risk for getting killed is almost tripled."
He goes on to say that pedestrians are at the highest risk on the evening after we make the switch and remains high for the following two weeks until drivers have adjusted to the reduction in daylight during their evening commute.
Nightmares on Halloween
Halloween is supposed to be a fun and spooky night for kids but, over the past few decades, it’s become even spookier for parents. Checking your child’s loot bag for safe candy, however, is only one concern.
“Kids have a greater chance of being fatally injured by a car on Halloween than any other day of the year, including the Fourth of July and New Year’s Day,” according to State Farm® Insurance and Sperling’s BestPlaces. The study reveals that most of the fatalities happened to children between the ages of 12 and 15, they occurred between the hours of 6:00 to 7:00 p.m., in the middle of a block, and perpetrated by young drivers, age 15 to 25.
If your older children will be out by themselves on Halloween, caution them to cross the street and corners, in the crosswalk. Look before leaving the curb and continue using caution as they cross the street. Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.
If you have an older child that will be behind the wheel on Halloween, caution him or her to take it slow and be alert, especially in residential neighborhoods. Remind young drivers that young children are excited on Halloween and may dart out in front of the car. Eliminating distractions while driving, such as a cellphone or fiddling with the radio, is always important but never more so than on October 31.
The folks at SafeKids.org recommend that parents decorate costumes and loot bags with reflective tape or stickers. Buy a couple of glow sticks or flashlights for the children to carry to help them be more visible to drivers.