Yesterday was October 31st, a date of double significance for the young people – and the young at heart – throughout the Silver State. Across the country and in many places beyond it, October 31st marks the date of Halloween, that annual celebration of all things creepy. The additional importance in our state comes from the fact that yesterday was the anniversary of Nevada’s acceptance into the United States of America. Sadly, this date is also a reminder of the challenges of keeping Nevadans safe from car accidents.
A Note on Nevada Day
While most workers and school-age children observed Nevada Day last Friday, the actual anniversary is on the 31st. Nevada officially became part of the United States on October 31, 1864.  While the conventional wisdom is that Nevada was brought into the Union for its mineral wealth – the Civil War was ongoing in the fall of 1864 – famed Nevada historian Guy Rocha disputes this claim. To the extent that Nevada’s gold and silver deposits were part of the calculus, Rocha points out that these resources were placed in federal hands when Nevada became a U.S. territory in 1861. 
But what of the state slogan, “Battle Born?” Rocha contends that the Civil War was already winding down by 1864, and a Union victory was almost inevitable. The “battle” in question was purely political – President Abraham Lincoln faced a three-way contest for the presidency in the 1864 general election. By adding Nevada as an additional state – one friendly to Lincoln’s moderate plans for reconstructing the tattered nation and reintegrating the South – Lincoln could secure more votes for himself. The matter became moot after Lincoln proclaimed Nevada a state shortly before the election, as his main electoral threat dropped out of the race. Lincoln cruised to an easy reelection. 
While the mythos of Nevada’s founding may be something of a tall tale, there is no doubt that Nevada has played an important role in the nation’s development. Votes from Nevada’s newly appointed legislators helped cement the post-Civil War amendments to the U.S. Constitution that attempted to achieve equality for all people irrespective of race. Nearly a century later, the Nevada Test Site was an important part of the military’s development of the atomic weapons that kept the planet in a tense but largely peaceful state for the next seventy years.
Halloween’s Spooky Safety Record
If you ask the average person how one might be harmed on Halloween, you are likely to receive inaccurate responses. “You might bite into a candy apple with a razor blade planted inside it!” “Someone could give you poisoned candy!” “You might have a heart attack when someone jumps at you from the shadows!” While these are not entirely implausible ways that one might suffer an injury on Halloween, they are examples of some of the most far-fetched channels of harm. The reality of injuries on Halloween is far spookier.
In other articles on traffic accidents, we have emphasized that the summer months are the most dangerous of the year. As drivers speed out of Reno for Lake Tahoe, drive north from Sparks to Pyramid Lake, or slog out of the greater Las Vegas area for Lake Mead in their attempts to enjoy a reprieve from the summer heat, they often place their angst to reach their destination above their focus on safely getting from point A to point B. As a result of this “destination fever” – to say nothing of the increased risk of drunk driving accidents when holiday revelry is part of the mix – July is the month during which the most automobile fatalities occur. But October is close behind; according to one study of 2017 data, just over 3,800 motor vehicle deaths occurred in the month of July while October saw 3,700 deaths. 
October’s prominence in these statistics is not hard to understand. About one-fifth of deadly car accidents occur at intersections or other road crossings, despite the fact that pedestrians are supposed to cross the street in these areas.  Too often drivers are paying inadequate attention, and that hazard is increased by poor lighting and dark clothing. Since the whole point of Halloween is to create a spooky ambiance and dress oneself in a scary costume, the main ingredients of risky driving conditions are already present. Check out these spooky statistics:
- More than 40 million children go trick-or-treating each year.
- More than three-fifths of children go trick-or-treating without a flashlight, and more than four in five Halloween costumes lack reflective material that would alert a driver to the presence of a costumed pedestrian.
- Only one-third of parents have a conversation about Halloween safety with their kids, and more than two-thirds of parents let their children go trick-or-treating without adult supervision. 
When the vast majority of Halloween-party-going adults bring alcohol along, it should be of little surprise that the majority of car accidents on Halloween involve alcohol. The sad result is that children face a two-fold increase in risk of being killed in a traffic accident on Halloween.
These are sobering statistics to be sure, but parents can take any of a number of steps to keep their children safe. Whether your candy cavorting takes you to the southernmost reaches of Reno, the northern valleys of Sparks, or the far-flung suburbs around Las Vegas, be alert for suspicious or inattentive driving to keep your family safe from car accidents this Halloween.