As a mother of a young child, I was looking forward to taking my 2-year-old for his first trick-or-treating experience on Oct. 31. A dutiful subscriber to the city of Tucson’s NewsNet, I read the Halloween safety message posted by Tucson’s Police and Fire departments (which I have reproduced in full, below) and was horrified to see that should the unthinkable happen on Halloween night, should my or someone else’s child be struck and killed by a person driving a car, I or a mother like me could expect to be blamed for not taking enough safety precautions to prevent the death.
This didn’t sit well with me, so I took the liberty of rewriting Tucson’s fire and safety professionals’ Halloween safety message.
Here’s what they should have written:
DRIVERS: PRACTICE SAFETY FOR HALLOWEEN — Tucson’s first responders are urging drivers of motor vehicles to be extra cautious during Halloween activities tomorrow night. The Tucson Police Department says young children can easily get distracted by lights and dart across the street, and since Halloween is a night when many families are outside walking, it is critically important that drivers show appropriate attentiveness, drive slowly, or better yet, not drive at all if it isn’t necessary. Nationwide, more people driving cars hit and kill children on Halloween than any day of the year, and these fatalities are entirely preventable if people slow down and use the caution that is always appropriate when behind the wheel of a car. Meanwhile, the Tucson Fire Department is encouraging people driving cars to wear bright colors and light up their vehicles so that people dressed up in Halloween costumes (which include masks) can more easily see drivers. Glow sticks are a good idea to put on your car. Better yet, leave your car at home, get out and enjoy the evening by taking a walk! Be sure to wear comfy shoes so you can visit all those houses, get lots of candy and burn off extra calories.
Here’s what they actually wrote:
PRACTICE SAFETY FOR HALLOWEEN — Tucson’s first responders are urging parents, kids, and drivers to be extra cautious during Halloween activities tomorrow night. The Tucson Police Department says young children can easily get distracted by lights and dart across the street without looking for cars first. Nationwide, more kids get hit and killed by cars on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Meanwhile, the Tucson Fire Department says safety begins with costumes, urging trick-or-treaters to wear light colors and masks and decorations that don’t obstruct vision. Glow sticks also are a good idea to make it easier to be seen. TFD also says good, closed toe shoes will help minimize tripping hazards.
Intended or not, consciously or unconsciously, this safety message places the responsibility for street safety disproportionately on the shoulders of our youngest, most vulnerable people.
It is inherently wrong to continue to invest in and prioritize speed and convenience over safety, when this year alone more than 50 people have lost their lives on Tucson’s streets in traffic crashes. Crashes are preventable through engineering by narrowing our roads, decreasing speeds, adding sidewalks and clearly marked crosswalks, and by enforcing laws that require people to take seriously the enormous responsibility we assume when we get behind the wheel of car.
If you want to be a part of the changes we need to make our streets safer places for everyone, join the Tucson community for the World Day of Remembrance of Road Traffic Victims from 4:30 to 5:30pm on Nov. 19 at City Hall.
Kylie Walzak is a mother and advocate for safer streets for everyone through her work at Living Streets Alliance and as coordinator of the biannual Cyclovia Tucson event.