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The real horror of Halloween

Watch out for cars this Halloween

October 31, 2019 - 5:00pm

When I was a kid, trick-or-treating was something that mostly happened in America. And it was from the US that we heard chilling tales of poisoned candy and ‘treats’ containing razor blades. For the most part, these have proved to be urban myths.

But there is one deadly threat that does stand up to scrutiny — the elevated risk of death on the roads. Curbed.com (which is part of Vox media) reports on research that indicates a substantially increased danger on Halloween:

That simultaneous burst of increased pedestrian activity and increased car traffic creates a deadly combination. A study by University of British Columbia researchers looked at 42 years of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data. Halloween night was, on average, 43 percent more deadly for pedestrians than other autumn nights.
- Curbed.com

Recorded fatalities are much lower in years when the festivity falls on a Saturday or Sunday, suggesting that evening commuter traffic is the biggest source of danger.

Halloween is a time of remembering. The costumes evoke distorted images of a pagan past. Christians may still recognise it as the first part of the Hallowtide triduum — All Saints’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. But what Halloween should also remind us of are the not-so-ancient times when children playing in the streets was something that happened everyday — and as long into every evening as parents and the elements would allow.

The car, supposedly a facilitator of liberty, took that freedom away and dealt a devastating blow to community life. It was a creeping horror, the cars moving in one by one, so that we never confronted or even questioned the great takeover. Increasing numbers of men, women and children met with death and injury, but each killing, each maiming, was just an ‘accident’ — the blood and guts swiftly cleaned away so that life could return to normal.

Meanwhile we’ve taught our children to be afraid of what was once their playground. This too we’ve come to think of as normality.

Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.


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