Creep in the Car

Halloween is unfortunately the deadliest day in the United States for child pedestrian accidents, according to a 2012 study funded by State Farm and Bert Sperling of Sperling’s Bestplaces. It can also create hazards for drivers in other ways, if vandals throw substances on car windows that can block a driver’s vision.

State Farm provides the following safety tips for Halloween, and we would add that if you have a vehicle with a rearview camera, by all means, use it.

If you’re driving:

  • Be alert for children and eliminate in-car distractions.
  • Drive slowly.
  • Practice extra caution at intersections and corners.
  • Pull in and out of driveways carefully.
  • Discuss these and other driving pointers with your teen driver. Drivers ages 15–25 were involved in around one-third of fatal accidents involving child pedestrians on Halloween, according to the study.

If you’re going door-to-door:

  • Always accompany young children.
  • Exercise great caution during the “deadliest” hours: between 5 and 9 p.m. The study shows that the hour between 6 and 7 p.m. is especially dangerous for pedestrian accidents.
  • Stick to neighborhoods with sidewalks. If you must walk on the street, keep to the far left, facing traffic.
  • Practice safe crossing procedures: Use crosswalks; wait for corners; and look left, right, and left again before crossing.
  • Stick reflective tape onto costumes to make your child more visible. Also have him or her carry a flashlight.
  • Make sure costumes and shoes are the correct size to prevent tripping. Use face paint and leave the masks at home: They can obstruct vision.
  • If an older child is venturing out without supervision, ask that he or she go with a group, discuss the route and agree on a curfew. Give older kids cell phones so they can stay in touch.

If you’re handing out treats at home:

  • Keep your home brightly lit indoors and outside.
  • Clear debris and other obstacles from your lawn, sidewalks and steps (and we would add, driveway).
  • Opt for battery-operated candles in jack-o’-lanterns or other areas where costumed trick-or-treaters might stand.
  • Keep pets kenneled or in another room.

State Farm adds:

In addition to protecting children from accidents, remind kids of stranger danger on Halloween. Teach children to visit only well-lit homes, to avoid dark streets and to not enter homes that aren’t their own. Kids should show all their loot to parents before eating any of it. Homemade treats from people they don’t know shouldn’t be eaten.

Halloween can bring hazards for your vehicle, and Consumer Reports offers suggestions for protecting it from holiday vandalism, as some people think it’s funny to throw eggs on cars or graffitti them with Silly String or smashed pumpkins. If such debris is not cleaned off a car right away, it can cause permanent stains that can lower a vehicle’s resale value, the magazine notes. Such materials as egg whites and pumpkin contain acid that can eat into a car’s finish. We would add that having your vehicle’s windows covered with splatter hinders your view of the road and makes for dangerous driving.

Consumer Reports writes that in the last 10 years, automakers have developed a special paint that is resistant to the acid damage that can come from eggs and Silly String, according to Donald White, global technology manager at DuPont Performance Coatings. The magazine provides the following suggestions to prevent problems with older cars that could arise on Halloween:

  • Make sure your car is waxed, as that will protect the paint.
  • Park your vehicle in a garage or use a car cover.
  • If your car has been vandalized, as soon as possible, rinse off the solid residue, such as eggshells, that can scratch the paint. Then follow up with a thorough washing.
  • Keep a small spray bottle of water that has been mixed with a dedicated car-washing soap or simply use a spray-on car wax. Either of these will help you to remove small messes with a soft towel. “Even if you can’t remove it right away, just spraying the solution on will dilute the acid and minimize any damage.”
  • However, “[i]f a contaminant has had time to set in and cause paint damage, but hasn’t eaten completely through the clearcoat layer, wash it thoroughly and try using a cleaner wax. These are products formulated with some abrasives; they can remove a thin layer of paint to expose the undamaged paint beneath. (Our latest Ratings show which waxes provided the best cleaning and gloss improvement.) If the damage extends through the clearcoat and into the color paint or metal, however, it will need to be repainted. “

Now that we’ve given you tips for avoiding tricks, here’s a treat, a slide show of Halloween car costumes by Mark Atkinson for MSN Autos.

Image by OakleyOriginals.

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