Goblins, ghouls and ghosts will soon fill the streets as Halloween approaches, but with high pedestrian traffic and escalated occurrences of drunk driving, the real fright this October may just be something as simple as someone behind the wheel.
“Those that are old enough to have a drink, please just have a designated driver,” said Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton, the public information officer for the Waco Police Department. “We don’t want to seem like party crashers, but if you do things to put our public in harm we’re going to protect our people even if that means putting someone in jail for the night.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 44 percent of the nation’s fatalities during the 2011 Halloween weekend occurred in crashes involving a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above the legal limit of 0.08.
Swanton said Baylor students tend to handle themselves well during Halloween, and for him, the largest concern is people who underestimate the influence a drink or two can have on their capability to drive.
“Buzzed driving is drunk driving; it doesn’t take much to blow a .08,” Swanton said.
Most Baylor students will probably be at parties rather than trick-or-treating, Swanton said. He said he cautions those not of age to avoid drinking or even holding alcoholic beverages. Both could land a student with a minor in consumption (MIC) violation, a Class C misdemeanor resulting in a $500 fine or license suspension.
For those 21 and older who plan to drink, Swanton said common sense and good friends are the two most important things to have for a night out.
If someone is having a drink, he or she should tend to it and be sure he or she aren’t slipped a drug that could make them vulnerable. That’s where having good friends comes in.
Friends who know when someone isn’t acting like his or her normal self can act as a safe guide home, which is essential to not being taken advantage of. Swanton said this is vital for both women and men, so as not to become a predator’s next victim.
Baylor Police Chief Jim Doak said he agrees that alcohol consumption is the primary issue faced on and around campus, though he described Halloween as a non-event in his department because Baylor students manage themselves well on this occassion.
He said he concerns himself more with students who wear masks on campus.
“Every year, someone will think it’s a good idea to wear a scary mask to class,” Doak said. “It’s not. They’re not considering our international students on campus who don’t celebrate or know what Halloween is. For some people, seeing someone in a mask could trigger scary memories.”
Doak said many international students who have the Nairobi mall attack that took place Sept. 21 in Kenya fresh on their minds may not react well to people walking into buildings with masks.
Swanton said it isn’t just the classroom where students should be careful.
“It’s not a good idea to wear a mask inside convenient stores or department stores,” Swanton said. “Leave those for parties or answering the doors. That can startle attendants at service stations and fast food places because you appear as a possible armed robbery suspect.”
Another thing to consider when choosing how to dress for Halloween are accessories. Swanton said fake weapons are never a good idea, and if a call is made about a possible threat, even if it turns out to just be a plastic gun accompanying a clever detective’s costume, it could turn a good night into a bad one quickly.
The National Crime Prevention Council, which celebrates Crime Prevention Month during October, also advises against wearing masks because they can hinder vision while driving.
NCPC’s website suggests trying paint-on masks or finding costumes that do not require a mask at all.
Mask-free faces are best especially if students do plan to go door-to-door looking for treats, Swanton said.
He said people answering their doors to strangers have to be extra cautious of robbers taking advantage of the holiday. If someone doesn’t feel secure answering the door, they shouldn’t feel guilty, Swanton said.
Trick-or-treaters have other options for picking up loot, such as events at Zoo Boo at Cameron Park, from 6 to 8 p.m. on Halloween night, or Treat Night in the Baylor resident halls on campus.
“We want people to enjoy themselves,” Swanton said. “Build memories, but good memories, things you can be proud of. Not the memory of going to jail because you did something stupid and now you have to call mom and dad to bail you out of jail.”