My kids are getting excited about trick-or-treating for Halloween. And I am busy scouring social media advertisements for school fall festivals, Halloween events at local parks and trunk-or-treat options at church. It’s not so much a safety thing for us. I realize that for a lot of families, alternatives to walking through dark neighborhoods might be something to rethink or reconsider. For us, it’s mostly just a time, effort and energy thing. And I kind of like the convenience of being able to get three kids in and out with a bag full of goodies without wearing out our shoes … or our bodies!
That Was Then…
Of course, I still remember my trick-or-treating from “way back when” and the Strawberry Shortcake costume I donned on one of my first Halloween outings in my little neighborhood in northeastern Pennsylvania. I’m sure many fellow Gen Xers can relate to the stiff, uncomfortable plastic-bib-like costume that secured with plastic ties in the back and was fitted right over your everyday clothes. And let’s not forget the suffocating “sculptured” mask with tiny slits for eyes, little holes for your nostrils (if you were lucky) and the small, nearly pointless mouth opening. The flimsy mask secured over your head with a thin elastic band that tangled in your hair every five seconds or eventually popped off from being pulled on and off all night (in order to see and breathe).
But the best part of trick-or-treating “back in those days” was the homemade goodies. We would score bags of brownies and cookies with Halloween colored sprinkles, carefully wrapped candied apples tied with orange ribbons, and — if you were really lucky — caramel popcorn balls wrapped in cellophane. Not anymore. Candy is individually wrapped and inspected. And parents are still vigilant about checking for razor blades and poisons or otherwise murderous, cyanide-laced, tampered-with sweets that we all know too well from a decade’s worth of myths and urban legends.
This Is Now…
But honestly, if you’re looking for something to really fear on All Hallows’ Eve, you might want to look away from the treat bag and toward the nearest vehicle. Halloween night can be very deadly because of the increased numbers of DUIs and pedestrian accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 43 percent of all Halloween fatalities between 2011 and 2013 involved a drunk driver. And with an average of 5.5 fatalities each year on October 31, that’s more than double the average number of 2.6 deaths for any other day.
Halloween is the deadliest day of the year for children. The sad reality is that children are more likely to be fatally struck by a vehicle while trick-or-treating than on any other night of the year. A study published in the JAMA Pediatrics found that for children between the ages 4 and 8 years of age, the risk of pedestrian fatality was 10 times higher on Halloween. Sperling’s Best Places revealed that most of the fatalities occurred with children ages 12-15 (32 percent of all child fatalities), followed by children ages 5-8 (23 percent).
Some Helpful Tips
So if you’re looking for other ways to be safe on Halloween, besides examining all treats before consuming them (and avoiding all suffocating, sub-par masks from the 1980s), consider these helpful tips:
- Do not trick-or-treat alone. A parent, approved adult or responsible older sibling should always accompany young children.
- If older children are going out, plan and review the agreed-upon route, and set a specific time when they should return home.
- Check costumes for choking and/or tripping hazards.
- Inspect costume accessories, especially swords, knives, wands, guns, lightsabers, ninja stars or other toy weapons. They should be soft and flexible and unable to cause real harm … or undue alarm. (Side note for parents/escorts: If you are armed for safety, please make sure it’s safely concealed!)
- Have charged cellphones with you at all times. (Do not keep them on silent.)
- Use flashlights (with fresh batteries) and/or reflective tape or glow accessories for all children and escorts.
- Stay in groups and communicate.
- Travel together on well-lit streets and stay on the sidewalk (or use the far edge of the road, facing traffic).
- Do not take shortcuts across yards or alleys. Use crosswalks or cross the streets at well-lit areas.
- Don’t run!
- Do not assume the right of way. Drivers may have trouble seeing trick-or-treaters in costumes. (And just because one car stops doesn’t mean others will!)
- Only go to homes with a porch light on, and never enter a home or a vehicle for a treat.
- Stay clear of lit candles and luminaries and be careful not to trip on cords, support lines or other decorations.
- Notify law enforcement immediately if you see any suspicious or unlawful activity.