Halloween has always been a holiday favorite for children – who doesn’t love candy and pranking other people!? Well, Halloween is also a big holiday for millennials, college students in particular. Some of us go home to family and trick-or-treating, but a lot stay in town and go to the many parties on and off campus. According to the National Retail Federation, nearly 50% of 18-34 year-olds are likely to throw or attend a Halloween party. Also, the Association for Consumer Research reports that teens and young adults are more likely to party and drink than they are to do any other activity on Halloween besides dressing in a costume or not doing anything at all. Drinking excessively is always a problem, but on Halloween there are more parties, more people, and more alcohol everywhere you go.
Binge drinking is the most common pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration to .08 or above. Typically, this is when men consume 5 or more drinks and women consume 4 or more drinks in the span of about 2 hours. According to various national surveys, 1/6 of adults in the United States binge drinks about 4 times a month.1 Binge drinking is most common among young adults aged 18-34 years, particularly among college students.1 Binge drinking can lead to many health problems including, alcohol poisoning, STDs, high blood pressure, stroke, brain damage, loss of muscle, and a weakened immune system. That doesn’t even include the short-term effects of binge drinking which include blurred vision, impaired coordination, and vomiting.
One big problem with binge drinking,especially on Halloween is that binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to report alcohol-impaired driving than non-binge drinkers.2 According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 44% of national fatal crashes during Halloween weekend involved a driver or motorcyclist with a BAC of .08 or higher and 38% of crashes solely on Halloween night involved a driver or motorcyclist with a BAC of .08 or higher. 23% of pedestrian fatalities on Halloween night included a drunk driver.3 There are so many people out during Halloween night, mainly children, that it increases the risk of there being an accident involving a drunk driver and pedestrians.
In order to avoid injuries or fatalities from happening on Halloween, it is important to understand how to prevent binge drinking.
This is where the KNOW campaign comes in. There are several aspects to the KNOW campaign. One is the 0-1-2-3 rule. The numbers stand for: 0 – know when not to drink 1 – limit yourself to no more than 1 drink an hour; 2 – limit drinking to no more than 2 times per week; and 3 – keep it to no more than 3 drinks a night. A second part of the KNOW campaign is to know the impact drinking has. One thing this category highlights is protective behaviors. Protective behaviors to prevent binge drinking include eating before or during consumption, tracking the number of drinks you consume, following the 0-1-2-3 rule, and alternating non-alcoholic beverages, to name a few.
Alternatively, if you have been drinking or are driving distracted, follow these Halloween safety tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For motorists, they say to use caution behind the wheel by eliminating distractions if you haven’t been drinking. If you have been drinking, drive sober or get pulled over! Always designate a sober driver or call a taxi in order to keep yourself and others out of danger. Finally, they say to watch out for everybody by reporting drunk drivers or taking someone’s keys to prevent them from driving. Pedestrians also need to be alert. Walking impaired is just as dangerous as driving impaired so designate a sober friend to drive you home. Keep kids safe by supervising children 12 and under, sticking to familiar areas that are well lit, stick in groups, and decorate costumes with reflective tape or have children carry glow sticks or flashlights to stay visible. Finally, follow the street rules as a pedestrian by using crosswalks at traffic signals and look left and right when crossing.
Following these tips to prevent accidents from happening is essential to have a safe and fun Halloween weekend. Halloween can still be fun just from the candy and decorations alone, but if alcohol is a factor, be sure to follow the tips the NHTSA offers to stay safe this Halloween.
- CDC. Vital signs: binge drinking prevalence, frequency, and intensity among adults—U.S., 2010. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2012; 61(1):14 –9.
- Naimi TS, Brewer RD, Mokdad A, Clark D, Serdula MK, Marks JS. Binge drinking among US adults. JAMA, 2003. 289(1):70–75.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Safety advisory: NHTSA offers Halloween safety tips. NHTSA Press Release 2013.
- National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. NIAAA council approves definition of binge drinking. NIAAA Newsletter 2004. No. 3, p. 3.