For children, there is nothing more magical than Halloween. It is one of the best nights of the year. But for parents, there can be a fine line between holiday fun and safety concerns. Trick-or-treating often takes place at night, and there are a lot of people and cars on the street. It also involves complicated costumes and taking candy from strangers.
According to the National Safety Council, October is the second worst month for motor vehicle accidents. In 2015, 6,700 pedestrians were killed, and 160,000 were injured in motor vehicle accidents. 17% of these deaths occurred when pedestrians improperly crossed roads. Lack of visibility due to low lighting or dark clothing accounted for 15% of motor vehicle-related pedestrian deaths and 15% of all motor vehicle-related deaths for children age 5 to 9 occurred when the child darted or ran into the road.
But, by keeping just a few tips in mind, you can ensure that you and your family enjoy a fun and safe Halloween.
1. Make a Plan
With your children, map out a path for trick-or-treating in a familiar, well-lit neighborhood and review the plan before leaving the house to avoid getting lost. Avoid taking shortcuts down alleyways, unfamiliar roads, poorly lit parks or wooded areas, or zig-zagging down streets. Review how to contact 9-1-1 with your children in case you get separated and designate safe houses or meeting places.
2. Wear Comfortable, Safe Clothing
Ensure that your child’s costume is the appropriate length. Long costumes that drag on the ground can be a tripping hazard. You and your children should wear comfortable shoes and laces should be double-knotted. Costumes should be well-fitted and fire resistant, and costume accessories should be flexible.
3. Steer Clear of Masks
While masks can be a fun addition to a costume, try to replicate the look with non-toxic face paint instead. Masks can make it difficult to see or breathe. If your children must wear a mask, make sure it is well-fitted, adequately ventilated, and has large enough eye holes so that they can see clearly. If you choose to use face paint instead, test the product before use and wash it off before bed to avoid skin and eye irritation.
4. Be Visible
Try to avoid trick-or-treating when it is dark out. The safest time to go door-to-door is at dusk when motorists can see you, and you can keep better track of your children. But, if you are trick-or-treating when it is dark, wear bright, reflective clothing or costumes, or add glow necklaces/bracelets or reflective tape to shoes and accessories. Parents should carry flashlights to light sidewalks and pathways.
5. Practice Pedestrian Safety
Before heading out, review basic pedestrian safety with your children, so that they know to look both ways before crossing the street, only crossing at crosswalks or corners, and when available, waiting until the “walk” sign is lit to enter a crosswalk. In today’s digital age, it is important for children and parents to remain alert and off devices – keeping their eyes on what’s in front of them and their hands-free.
6. Safety in Numbers
Adult chaperones should accompany young children when trick-or-treating, and older children and teenagers should go out in groups. It is a good idea to label your children’s costumes with emergency contact information in case they get lost. If your older children or teenagers are going out without you, be sure to set an expected time for their return, remind them to keep their cellphones turned on so that you can contact them (or vice versa) if needed, and to avoid talking to or getting into cars with strangers.
7. Stick with What You Know
Encourage your children to only trick or treat at homes whose porch lights are on and that they know. If a house is dark or not decorated, it is probably a sign that they are not giving out candy. Teach them that they are never to go inside of a house or car for candy. If someone tries to get them to come inside of a house or car, they should walk away and alert an adult or the police.
8. Practice Patience
It may be tempting to sneak in a treat or two along the trick-or-treat trail, but it is safer to wait until you return home to inspect the candy to ensure that it is safe to consume. Children should only eat factory-wrapped treats that adhere to any dietary restrictions they may have. To lessen the temptation of snacking along the route, bring a bag of approved snacks or candies for your children to munch on while they trick-or-treat.
Wishing you all a fun, safe, and memorable Halloween!