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TIME CHANGE ADDS TO KIDS' SAFETY THREATS; DRIVING CARE ON HALLOWEEN URGED.

Byline: LOCAL VIEW By Antonio R. Villaraigosa

Autumn is upon us. The air is cooler and the leaves are starting to fall. This is the time of year when we leave daylight savings time and return to standard time, which means dusk falls earlier.

Many of us suddenly find ourselves driving home from work in the dark. This year, we turn our clocks back today, which is also Halloween.

While this is a day to celebrate fall and enjoy Halloween family fun, motorists and parents should also be aware that it brings a heightened risk to children trick or treating this evening and to those out and about the subsequent week.

Children are already among the most vulnerable users of the street. This Halloween, they have even more strikes against them.

We are learning that pedestrians of all ages are in serious danger as they navigate the streets of California's cities and sprawling suburbs. A recent report from the Surface Transportation Policy Project, ``Caught in the Crosswalk,'' noted that pedestrian deaths account for 20 percent of all traffic fatalities statewide.

The STPP named Los Angeles County as the most dangerous county for pedestrians.

Children are at an even greater risk. According to STPP, children represent a startlingly disproportionate share of pedestrian fatalities and injuries relative to their share of the population, accounting for nearly 33 percent of all pedestrian deaths, despite comprising only 25 percent of the population.

The National Safe Kids Campaign notes that pedestrian injury remains the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 5 to 14.

Children are particularly vulnerable to pedestrian death because they are exposed to traffic situations beyond their physical and mental abilities. Children act impulsively and have difficulty judging speed and distance. This is made worse by the fact that parents overestimate their children's pedestrian skills.

Combine this with the fact that after the fall time change, child pedestrians are at even greater risk and parents have good reason to be concerned.

Statistics show there is a significant increase in the number of auto-vs.-child pedestrian casualties after the fall time change. The California Highway Patrol believes it is the time change that accounts for the increase in incidents. Drivers take a few days to acclimate to the earlier arrival of dusk.

Even though it is darker earlier, children are still going about their normal routine, like walking home from soccer practice and riding bikes with friends. Yet adults driving in the darkness of early evening do not expect to see children on the street.

A study published in the January 1995 issue of the American Journal of Public Health noted that ``with the start of standard time in the fall, the number of pedestrian fatal crashes increased substantially'' with the abrupt change from daylight to twilight.

The University of California, Davis Medical Center, a trauma center in

Sacramento, found a 62 percent increase in the number of children in auto-vs.-pedestrian crashes and auto-vs.-bicycle crashes in the two weeks following the October time change. Of these victims, 90 percent had severe injuries and required surgery.

Children are always vulnerable on the street. This year, the time change on Halloween is an added threat that could be a time bomb for kids. Parents can take several steps to keep their kids safe.

Make sure motorists can see your trick or treaters with glow-in-the-dark costumes or reflective tape and stickers.

They should carry flashlights or other lighted devices.

Older kids trick or treating should go in groups and younger children should always go with parents.

Remind your children to cross streets at the corner and not to cross between parked cars. Kids of all ages need to be reminded to look left, then right, then left again before crossing the street.

I would like to remind everyone to always be cautious on the roads, particularly as we experience the time change today.

Together, we can ensure that all kids return home safely on Halloween night and every night. Happy Halloween!
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Title Annotation:Viewpoint
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 31, 1999
Words:669
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