Halloween is scary and dangerous, that’s for sure. It’s also deceptive.
There’s statistically no reason to be especially concerned about tainted candy or child abduction on .
But there is one hazard that consistently injures and kills more children on Halloween than on any other day of the year.
This guide covers the steps you can take to help make sure your children have fun, but avoid injury on Halloween. We’ll even provide checklists you can use to ease worries and help keep your kids safe.
The Most Dangerous Part of Halloween
The likelihood of your child being struck by a car or killed in a car/pedestrian collision quadruples on Halloween. Deaths and injuries by fire also jump from to .
We’ll talk about food safety and looking out for strangers, but it’s often the more common hazards that sneak in and do the most harm. Let’s begin by considering the hard data (see the chart).
Most of the fatalities occurred with children ages 12-15 (32% of all child fatalities), followed by children ages 5-8 (23%)
Many times, parents will warn their children about checking their candy and being cautious around strangers, but fail to emphasize the special dangers Halloween presents to people on foot.
Here’s a list of tips and cautions every parent should review with their children and every trick-or-treater should be quick to observe. Child safety is serious business.
Mother’s Street-Savvy Safety Talk with the Children
Use the Crosswalk
Since 70% of Halloween pedestrian accidents occur outside of a crosswalk or crossing intersection, you’ll avoid much of the risk by crossing only in designated places. Use your street-crossing skills by looking left, right, then back to the left before stepping into the roadway.
Put Your Phone Away
If ever there was a poor time to be out for a walk with your eyes focused on a smartphone screen, Halloween is it. Be hyper-vigilant, avoid distractions of all kinds, and be aware of your surroundings. Stay safe!
Plan Your Route
Not only can you get to more houses and better-stocked houses by planning ahead, you can avoid areas where the sidewalks are in poor condition or non-existent, you can choose well-lit areas, you can minimize street crossings, you can avoid crossing or walking near railroad tracks, and you won’t have to worry about getting disoriented, then ending up in an area that’s spooky even when it isn’t Halloween.
Make Eye Contact with Drivers
Never assume the person driving that 2-ton machine sees you and is yielding the right-of-way to you. Look squarely at the person behind the wheel. You should see them looking back at you and maybe even motioning you to go ahead and cross. Never assume a car is stopping for you. Many won’t. They expect you to stop for them.
Walk, Don’t Run
It’s easy to get carried away with all the Halloween fun and start chasing one another down the street. Many pedestrian accidents on Halloween occur because a child darted out into the road from between parked cars. Even if your friends start acting wild, you don’t have to go along with them. Smart kids stay vigilant and get home safely.
When Running IS Appropriate
Should a driver stop and ask you to get in the car or someone on the street try to get you to go somewhere with them, that’s the time to run. Use the “No, Go, Yell, Tell” technique: Yell “NO!” and run away to a safe place (maybe to the friendly house you just left). Keep yelling as you run, and tell an adult immediately.
IN THE NEWS
On Halloween night in 2012, 54 people died, and nearly half of those deaths (26) involved a crash with a drunk driver, compared to one-third on an average day.
More than one-quarter (28 percent) of Halloween crash fatalities were pedestrians, compared to 14 percent on an average day.
From 2008-2012, 21 percent of pedestrian fatalities on Halloween night involved a drunk driver.
Mother’s Special Advice: Hang with People You Can Count On
Depending on the ages of your children and your own schedule for the evening, you may not be accompanying them on the street. Kids often don’t want parents along anyway, but there should be sufficient mature leadership in the group. Older siblings often fit the bill and are already accustomed to looking out for the younger ones.
If you’re not going to be present, it’s even more critical for you to go over the information in this guide with your children and with those who will be leading them on the adventure.
Use the Buddy System
The larger the group, the easier it is for someone to end up missing. Maybe a youngster waited at the door for the resident to go get more candy, while the rest of the group headed on down the steps to the next house. It’s all too easy for a child to panic and head the wrong direction, giving everyone a huge scare.
With the buddy system, each of the younger children (parents know who needs special attention) is being watched and guarded by someone mature enough to handle the responsibility. “No child left behind” is an excellent motto for Halloween.
Stay in Contact
Each of the leaders of the group should have a cell phone or walkie-talkie for intergroup communications. Messages may be as simple as “Hey, the yellow house is out of candy,” to “Look out for those kids that just passed us. I saw one of them throw a water balloon,” but staying in touch keeps larger groups more cohesive and better able to respond to any adverse situations.
Larger groups can split into smaller units. The one thing that identifies the group is that every member is sticking to the same route and all are looking out for one another.
Don’t Jump Off the Cliff
If someone in the group suggests something squirrely – like throwing eggs or vandalizing a fence – the leaders should shoot the idea down quickly. Since group members normally want to be accepted by their peers, one bad idea can send a whole bunch of teenagers headed down a dangerous path.
That’s why the parents’ choice of leadership is essential. And don’t think age is always synonymous with maturity. Adults can do dumb things too.
IN THE NEWS
A four-year-old girl and a 42-year-old man were hospitalized after they were badly burned lighting a pumpkin, WTKR reported. The man was holding his girlfriend’s child in his arms while he tried to light the pumpkin.
The man had hollowed out the pumpkin and was sketching a design on the outside when he turned the pumpkin upside down and put a grill lighter inside to show the little girl what the inside looked like. As this was happening, fumes built up inside of the pumpkin because the face was not carved out yet.
Since the fumes had nowhere to go, a flash fire occurred in the pumpkin. The man suffered first and second-degree burns on his abdomen and genital area. The child suffered first and second degree burns on her face and right arm.
Mother’s Tips on Getting Ready for Halloween
We’ve covered the basics of being careful on the street. Let’s backtrack a bit and consider Halloween preparation at home.
Halloween begins with costume selection and decorations. Let’s talk about costumes and makeup first.
How to Select the Best Costume for Halloween
Choose a costume that fits
You don’t like to wear ill-fitting clothes on any other day of the year, so why encourage your child to do it on Halloween? Clothing that doesn’t fit well makes it difficult to walk and move. And those are two things kids do a lot of while gathering their Halloween loot.
Beware of tripping and snagging hazards
That super-long gown may be adorable, but it can also cause a fall. One sure way to hit the ground hard is to get your feet caught up unexpectedly. Keep costume lengths short enough to not impede the feet. Likewise, keep sleeve lengths, cape lengths, and any other piece of clothing short enough for unhampered mobility.
Wear comfortable shoes
Children who clomp around for hours in shoes designed for a costume are likely to end up miserable before the evening is over and perhaps spend days or weeks healing from the damage to their feet. One thing you don’t want to collect on Halloween is blisters.
Don’t worry about being “authentic.” Worry about comfort and safety. Typically, that means your child will wear shoes already known to fit and provide good support and traction when hiking around the neighborhood.
Ditch the mask
That creepy mask may look cool, but most masks severely limit sight, breathing, and hearing. Your child will want to be hyper-alert on the street, not impaired. Not seeing or hearing a car has been the cause of many pedestrian accidents.
A Batman-type mask might work, or you can use makeup on the face and choose a properly-fitting hat to add to the persona. Chuck the mask, though. It can be a major safety hazard.
Get the good stuff
Have you ever tried makeup that gave you a rash or made your eyes puff up? Even name brand products can initiate a reaction, but the cheap stuff packaged especially for Halloween is especially suspicious. You have little assurance the ingredients aren’t toxic.
The risk isn’t worth saving a few dollars. For best results, choose makeup in advance and try a little on your child’s skin to test for an allergic response. Nobody wants to spend Halloween looking like a monster for real due to a major skin problem. By the way… those amazingly scary or cute decorative contact lens kits (no prescription needed). Don’t do it. Your child’s eyes are way too precious to risk infection or serious injury.
Don’t use real weapons
If the costume calls for a sword or staff, that’s fine. Just don’t send Johnny out with a real sword or a wooden staff. All props should be short enough to control at all times and soft enough to do no damage.
Using Uncle Harry’s military sword would certainly add an air of authenticity to the costume. But it could also add an awful spurting of real blood to the night. Don’t do it, even if Johnny pleads and cries.
Be careful about materials
Picture this: Mr. Jones loves Halloween. He decorates the steps with pumpkins he’s carved, all aglow with candles. There’s a line of kids at the door and one of the pumpkins gets kicked over. Little Alice is standing there with here lovely princess dress trailing behind her. The candle sets fire to the dress, and Alice’s mother freaks out, burning her hands badly as she tries to rip the flaming costume from her daughter’s body.
These things actually happen. Not only should you choose costumes that don’t drag on the ground, be sure the label says the material is flame resistant.
Keep the costume bright
The more visible the kid, the less the chance of getting struck by a car or lost in the night. Even if the chosen persona calls for dark and dreary colors, you can wrap a strip of reflective tape around each arm and leg to ensure visibility. Each trick-or-treater should also carry a personal flashlight (with good batteries). Glow sticks can be fun too.
You may already know everything we’ve just covered… but do you think primarily about common sense precautions in the rush to get ready for Halloween?
To help make sure you do, we’ve prepared a checklist (see below) you can use to make sure your child’s safety doesn’t get trumped by design considerations.
- Choose a costume that fits
- Beware of tripping and snagging hazards
- Wear comfortable shoes
- Ditch the mask
- Get the good stuff
- Don’t use real weapons
- Be careful about materials
- Keep the costume bright
IN THE NEWS
Grady Jordan, a deputy with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, lived a parent’s worst nightmare this weekend. That’s after he watched his only daughter get hit by a car. Grady told Eyewitness News his daughter Maddie said she even looked both ways before crossing the street, because she knew that’s what her parents would want her to do, then the truck came out of nowhere.
Spider webs and pumpkins still decorate that same Tallahassee neighborhood where it all happened. 11-year-old Madeline Jordan was out trick or treating with family and friends for Halloween. “We heard the screaming of, ‘slow down, slow down!’ You see the lights, and then you hear the impact,” said Maddie’s dad.
Halloween Safety – Kids at the Door
A big part of Halloween safety is simple courtesy and common sense. Counsel your kids to stick to the sidewalks – never cross someone’s lawn – and approach only those homes where the path is well-lit and it’s obvious those who live there are participating in the fun.
Some children are adorably shy at the door, while others are pushy and rude. Young ones, especially, can be confused by the behavior code. Let them know Halloween is just like any other day of the year; there’s never an excuse for being selfish or mean… and a smile coupled with a “Thank you” should be given for every treat received.
Surely they know already, but Halloween presents an excellent opportunity to revisit the basics of personal safety: never enter a home (even when invited), never get in a car (even when invited), if someone says “Your mother told me to ask you in,” don’t believe it and use No, Go, Yell, Tell to get away, and stick with the people in your group. Don’t get separated from them.
Preparing Your Own Home for Halloween
Some people go for Halloween decorations in a big way, and others don’t. Most homes, though, will participate in giving out candy and enjoying the little faces at the door.
In a way, though, if you live in a neighborhood, you can’t help but take part in Halloween. At the very least, there’s liable to be a whole lot of foot traffic going by your house. Some will come to the door whether you’ve left the porch light on or not. At a minimum, then, you should make sure all tripping hazards are removed or wrapped in reflective tape or otherwise highlighted.
Other safety tips are to use battery-powered pumpkin lights instead of wax candles, place pumpkins and other props on sturdy tables instead of setting them on the ground where little feet can get tangled, make sure all decorations are fire resistant and kept away from flames, make sure your porch and pathway lights are working and sufficiently bright, keep your pets away from the kids, and keep the candy bowl by the door.
IN THE NEWS
Matilda, eight, was in a witch’s costume when it brushed against a candle at a house in London last year. “We couldn’t put her out,” [her mother said.] “Her tights had melted into her skin… She went up, is the only way I know how to describe it. It was not like fire I had seen before.
Like if your shirt caught fire or anything I could put it out. It was the tights that… they came back to life. It was like those horrific birthday candles that you blow out and then they come back.”
Checking the Halloween Candy and Additional Tips
Yes, you should be cautious about what you allow your kids to eat. Despite folklore to the contrary, though, you’re probably not going to find apples with razor blades in them.
Toss out any treats that appear to have been opened or otherwise tampered with, and get rid of any with faded wrappers that look like they’ve been in the closet for years.
The bigger food danger is for those who have food allergies. You may be used to a certain brand of candy being fine for you to eat in the regular size, but the mini sizes often come from a different facility and may contain different ingredients. If your child has a severe allergy, make sure of what’s in the candy before you allow them to eat it.
Choking is also a concern. Young ones may be gobbling the goods too quickly, then try to swallow a toy pulled from the sack. Sort for size and type before you let them dig in.
You may want to ration out the bounty over the next few weeks, rather than letting the kids eat as much as they’d like. If you don’t put some limits on the feast, you may be up in the middle of the night cleaning up vomit and replacing the bed covers. Just saying.