It was Halloween and the man at the door said they were out of candy. At 8 years old, I was mortified. Who runs out of candy on Halloween?
Dressed in an old sheet with holes cut out for eyes and red food coloring down the front, I joined my friends to troll the streets of our neighborhoods for free candy. We didn’t have flashlights or noise makers and our parents didn’t have to drive along behind us to make sure we were safe. The big paper grocery sacks we had would be filled with everything from candied apples to homemade cookies to store-bought candy. Times were different.
I didn’t have a care in the world until this moment, because somehow, this man at this particular house had no Halloween treats. He explained that his wife had run to the store to buy more, but if we would like to come in and wait, she would be right back.
Rest of the group decided to move on to the next house. That left my sister and me. We waited. We didn’t know to be scared or even alarmed as we walked into the stranger’s house. We had no mobile phones to call for help had we needed to.
As we sat down on the couch, the man explained how there had been more trick-or-treaters than usual. He asked where we lived and who our parents were. He asked what kind of candy we liked and asked to look inside the paper bags. I offered him a piece of candy but he declined.
After about five minutes, a little old lady rushed through the back door, candy in hand, apologizing for keeping us waiting. The man said he had kept us entertained and we had promised not to trick them. With more candy in tow, we thanked him and headed home. As we dumped the sacks out with the candy haul into the living room floor, we told our parents what had happened. My Dad wanted to know exactly where the house with no candy was located.
In our young minds, we never saw any danger and thank goodness there wasn’t any. That is no longer true today. The very thought of our children stepping into a stranger’s house would scare any parent to a near heart attack. Though times have changed, local neighborhoods are still just as crowded with trick-or-treaters and parents who are driving slowly behind their little goblins and ghouls to make sure they are safe.
Pedestrian safety at TxDOT is something we study year-round. We realize pedestrians who walk after dark are presented with unique situations. In 2018, there were 8,110 crashes involving pedestrians or bicyclists in Texas. Of those crashes, there were 693 fatalities. Our professionals look at many contributing factors and consider age, time of day, distractions, locations and many other things. I invite you to go to our website and view the Texas Motor Vehicle Crash Statistics here: https://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/forms-publications/drivers-vehicles/publications/annual-summary.html. They are alarming. We would like to see them at zero, especially on a holiday still enjoyed by so many children.
I hope that as you drive through our towns and neighborhoods on Halloween and every day, you will remember that the unexpected can always happen. An excited child can and will dart into a dark street or between cars. Not all of them will be wearing brightly colored costumes or carrying flashlights. Stay alert for tricksters, let them enjoy themselves safely and whatever you do, don’t run out of candy. Have a happy and safe Halloween.
Rhonda Oaks is a Public Information Officer for the Texas Department of Transportation and resides in Lufkin.
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