Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety (YOVASO) is joining with the Virginia State Police (VSP) and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Highway Safety Office to encourage youth and teens to make good choices and celebrate responsibly as part of the statewide Halloween Safety Campaign.  The campaign’s focus is to prevent a tragedy on what is supposed to be a fun night for youth.

Over the next week, schools and youth groups across the commonwealth are participating in the peer-to-peer campaign by organizing programs and activities to promote safe and responsible celebrations for Halloween. Participating schools will be displaying Halloween safety banners and posters with the message: “Driving Safely is the Trick, Getting Home Safely is the Treat. Buckle Up, Celebrate Without Drugs or Alcohol.” They will also be distributing pledge cards and flashlight key chains and making announcements before and after school to promote a safe Halloween.

The campaign also provides an opportunity for high school students to talk with students at their local preschool, elementary and middle schools about trick-or-treat safety and being safe pedestrians on Halloween night. The message for younger students will be on buckling up, being seen while trick or treating and making good choices.

YOVASO staff say irresponsible driving behaviors such as underage drinking and driving as well as texting and driving can be even more deadly on Halloween night when young children are out trick-or-treating on neighborhood streets.

Between 2012 and 2016, there were 168 drunk-driving fatalities on Halloween night (6 p.m. Oct. 31 to 5:59 a.m. Nov. 1).

Approximately 44 percent of all fatalities on Halloween night were crashes involving a drunk driver.

“It is important for parents and schools to remind teens to drive safely and make good choices when out celebrating this weekend and on Halloween night,” said Mary King, YOVASO program manager.  “Poor decisions, such as texting and driving, underage drinking and drug use, speeding and forgetting to buckle up while out celebrating can ruin what is supposed to be a fun occasion. Driving safely and avoiding distractions becomes even more critical on Halloween night when young children will be trick-or-treating in neighborhoods.”

Here are some suggested safety tips for teens to follow for a safe Halloween:

• Avoid driving during “Halloween Rush Hour” from 5:30-9 p.m. when children are trick–or-treating.

• Drive below the speed limit in residential neighborhoods and use alternate routes when possible.

• Scan ahead for trick-or-treaters and yield to pedestrians.

• Use caution around stopped vehicles in neighborhoods and proceed slowly.

• Drive distraction-free.

• Celebrate responsibly and resist any peer pressure to celebrate Halloween with alcohol and/or drugs or to drive while impaired—it’s illegal.

• Do not ride with any drivers who may have used alcohol and/or drugs.

• Be on the alert for drivers who could be under the influence of something other than sweets.

• Remember to always buckle up.

Safety tips for youth to follow for a fun and safe Halloween:

• Avoid distractions and leave electronic devices at home while walking or biking

• Wear reflective clothing

• Carry a flashlight or glow stick

• Walk on sidewalks when possible

• Only trick-or-treat in well-lit neighborhoods

• Older students should always travel in pairs or large groups and let parents know where you are going

• Younger students should always trick or treat with a parent or adult supervision

• Never approach a stranger’s car

• Make good decisions and avoid any mischief that could ruin a fun night

• Stay alert and be seen on Halloween in case motorists are not watching out for you

More information and safety tips can be found on the YOVASO website at https://www.yovaso.org/halloween-campaign/.