Halloween Safety Tips

Attorney: Robert C. T. Reed, Richmond Personal Injury Attorney

With Halloween fast approaching, soon all manner of ghosts, goblins, fairies, and princesses will be taking to the streets in search of candy.  This fun communal event is exciting for children young and old.  We all know there can be dangers involved with strangers giving out candy, so adults are encouraged to chaperone their children closely during trick-or-treating.  However, there are other avoidable dangers associated with the witch's brew of roaming children, costumes, darkness, drivers, fire-lit jack o'lanterns, and unfamiliar homes.  Most Halloween accidents can be avoided with some preparation and by following a few safety tips.  Parents, drivers, and homeowners can all take steps to avoid accidents and make for a wonderful All Hallows' Eve.

Halloween Safety Tips For Parents:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that Halloween is consistently one of the top three days for pedestrian injuries and fatalities.[1] In addition, a study by the Center for Disease Control estimates that children are four times more likely to be struck by a motor vehicle on Halloween than any other day of the year.[2]  Parents should be prepared for the unique challenges Halloween provides for protecting children.  Encourage your children to wear costumes that are light, bright, and reflective.  Dark costumes can be scarier, but also make it difficult for drivers to see children in the street.  One compromise is to add reflective tape to your child's costume or to provide your child with glow sticks or glowing necklaces or wrist bands.  Children or their chaperones should bring flashlights to increase visibility and to help see where they are going in the dark.  Children should be told to walk -- not run -- from house to house.  They should be especially careful to use sidewalks, look both ways when crossing the street, and to cross at crosswalks where possible.

Parents should also make sure that their children are wearing costumes that promote safety.  Avoid purchasing costumes, masks, beards, wigs, and other apparel unless they are labeled as flame resistant.  Children should also be told not walk near candle-lit jack o' lanterns or luminaries.  Costumes should not have loose hanging material that may be a tripping hazard or might brush near flames.  Masks should be well fitting and allow a full field of vision.  Sometimes the solution is as simple as cutting the eye opening a little larger, but be careful when doing so not to leave a sharp edge or any loose material that might get in your child's eye.

Halloween Safety Tips For Drivers:

Allen & Allen's partner Chris Guedri recently provided tips to drivers to avoid pedestrian accidents, which are especially applicable to driving on Halloween night.  However, remember these specific safety tips on October 31.  Drivers have a heightened duty to exercise caution when driving in areas where drivers know or should know that children may be present.  On Halloween, drivers should know there will be children everywhere.

Drivers should not exceed the posted speed limit.  Additionally, there may be times when drivers should drive well below the posted speed limit, especially when driving in neighborhoods.  Drivers should be prepared to stop at a moment's notice as children in dark clothing may be more likely to dart into the street on Halloween.  Do not pass vehicles stopped in the road, as they may be picking up or dropping off trick-or-treaters.  Similarly, do not drive door to door with your children, because you will unnecessarily place them in harm's way and you may be too distracted to monitor your own driving.    When passing a parked car or truck in a residential neighborhood, be aware that a child may suddenly emerge from behind the vehicle.  For everyone's safety stay off the road if you can, but be very attentive if you must drive on Halloween.

Halloween Safety Tips For Homeowners:

Many of us look forward to handing out candy to a constant stream of trick-or-treaters on Halloween.  Inviting large numbers of small children onto your property comes with some risks, so it is helpful to be prepared.  Take some time before Halloween to ensure that your walkways and stairs are well lit and free of debris and obstacles.  Where necessary, post signs or create barriers to entry for pathways that you would rather people not use.  When possible, use electronic lights instead of candles to illuminate jack o' lanterns and luminaries.  If you are a traditionalist and want to use real candles, be sure to keep these displays away from doorsteps, walkways, and stairs.  Avoid placing flame-lit jack o' lanterns and luminaries where small children or pets will have easy access to them.  Also, do not leave burning candles unattended.

If you know that you have done all you can to prepare for a safe Halloween, you can enjoy the pleasant frights and scares of your encounters with all those candy seeking ghosts and ghouls.  A little preparation and heightened awareness will help keep us all safe.

About the Author: Rob is a Richmond personal injury attorney with the law firm of Allen & Allen. His practice is devoted exclusively to protecting the interests of seriously injured clients and their families in personal injury cases. He was an attorney with an insurance defense firm prior to joining Allen & Allen. His background in defense work gives him an advantageous perspective in understanding personal injury law and insurance litigation.

[1] See NHTSA Technical Report: "Trend and Pattern Analysis of Highway Crash Fatality By Month and Day", Report No. DOT HS 809 855, p. 14 (March 2005); available at http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/.
[2] See Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Childhood Pedestrian Deaths During Halloween -- United States, 1975-1996", MMWR, October 24, 1997, 46(42):987-990;  available at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00049687.htm.
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