Author: Robert C. T. Reed, Richmond, VA Personal Injury Attorney
Halloween is a fun communal event that 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 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. In addition, a study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that children are four times more likely to be struck by a motor vehicle on Halloween than any other day of the year. Here are some ways parents can prepare 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.
Halloween Costume Safety
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.
- 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.
Children should also be told not to walk near candle-lit jack o’ lanterns or luminaries.
Halloween Safety for Drivers
On Halloween, drivers should know there will be children everywhere and have a heightened duty to exercise caution when driving in areas where drivers know or should know that children may be present.
- 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 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, use extra caution in areas busy with pedestrian and vehicle traffic, and be very attentive if you must drive on Halloween.
Halloween Safety 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.
- 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. Also, do not leave burning candles unattended.
- Avoid placing flame-lit jack o’ lanterns and luminaries where small children or pets will have easy access to them.
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 and ensure a great time for everyone!
 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.