Halloween is one of America’s favorite nights out. It’s also one of the most dangerous nights of the year for kids.
There are a lot of myths about Halloween. Contrary to popular belief, the main hazards of Oct. 31 are not candy containing poison or razor blades or masked clowns, but the dangers faced by kids crossing the road or tripping over on the sidewalk.
Children are more than twice as likely to be killed by a car on Halloween night than at any other time of the year, according to Safe Kids USA. It’s a stark statistic that reveals far too few children take adequate safety precautions on the spookiest night of the year.
Halloween contains other threats too. Some of them are not obvious. Costumes may be a trip hazard and trick-or-treaters are occasionally attacked by dogs.
Dr. Leticia Manning Ryan, a specialist in pediatric emergency medicine at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore, told U.S. News she anticipates pedestrian injuries every year around Halloween. Drivers are not always to blame for child injuries. Trick-or-treaters often wear dark costumes or run unexpectedly into the road.
The accident statistics reflect the sheer number of children on the streets. Recently, CNN reported about 64 percent of Americans celebrate Halloween. More than 41 million kids go out trick-or-treating every year and more than $74 million is spent on costumes, candy, and decorations.
If you plan to go out trick-or-treating in Baltimore, Annapolis, Dundalk or elsewhere in Maryland, you should heed these safety tips.
Take a Flashlight When Trick-or-Treating
You should avoid exceptionally dark areas. However, no matter how light the neighborhood you are trick-or-treating in, you should carry a flashlight.
A beam will warn motorists you are on or at the side of the road. Some parts of Maryland lack sidewalks and other safety features like crosswalks.
Carrying a flashlight will also illuminate your walking path and allow you to see uneven pavement, tree roots, obstacles, and other tripping hazards.
Some trick-or-treaters wear costumes that make walking difficult. A flashlight will help prevent them tripping over.
Wear Bright Costumes
Consider buying bright costumes for your children. Fluorescent strips and shoes containing lights can help motorists see children on the streets.
Avoid Dark Houses
It may seem like obvious advice, but some kids will approach homes that are not illuminated and decorated for Halloween. This indicates they are not welcoming trick-or-treaters. It can be hazardous to approach these residences.
Don’t Wear Face Obscuring Masks
Kids should avoid wearing masks that prevent them seeing properly when walking around a neighborhood.
If the mask is an integral part of their costume, your child should only put it on when approaching homes to trick-or-treat.
Avoid Mock Weapons
Children who are trick-or-treating should avoid dangerous toy weapons such as sharp plastic swords or knives that could pose an injury to themselves or other children.
If a cane, wand, sword, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, ensure it is not sharp or long enough to be a trip hazard. Trick-or-treaters should avoid replica guns.
Don’t Wear Replica Contact Lenses
Fake contact lenses should not be used in any Halloween costume, states the American Academy of Pediatrics. You should never wear decorative contact lenses without a prescription from an eye care professional who has performed an eye examination.
The academy warns obtaining contact lenses without a prescription is illegal and dangerous. Children can experience pain, discomfort and serious eye disorders and infections. In extreme cases, they may suffer permanent vision loss.
Don’t Let Kids Trick-or-Treat Alone
No matter how old your child, he or she should not be allowed to trick-or-treat alone. Kids should walk around a neighborhood in groups. Younger children under the age of 12 should always be accompanied by a parent or a responsible guardian.
Avoid Unfamiliar Neighborhoods
Trick-or-treaters should not go into unfamiliar neighborhoods. They may get lost or stray into dangerous locations. You should always know where your children are going.
Exercise Caution on the Roads
Drivers should behave differently on Halloween. If you are driving through a residential neighborhood likely to be used by trick-or-treaters, reduce your speed and anticipate children crossing the road or walking by the side of the road. Be particularly careful when turning into residential side streets. Use your headlights, even before the sun goes down.
Pedestrians should avoid walking between parked cars, rushing across the street without looking in both directions, and jaywalking. Aim to stay within areas that are well-lit by streetlamps. Walk from house to house on the same side of the road rather than continuously crossing the street and never run.
Use Crosswalks and Sidewalks
It’s the law for pedestrians to use crosswalks and sidewalks where they are available. Often kids get excited at Halloween and fail to walk and cross at the correct places. Adults should assist children when they are crossing the road. Don’t cross the road when the “don’t walk” sign is displayed.
Watch out for Drunk Drivers
Many people party on Halloween. You should watch out for drivers behaving erratically. Excess speed, not stopping at a red light, or drifting across lanes may indicate drunk driving. Maryland has a serious drunk driving problem. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drunk drivers caused 1,716 deaths in the state from 2003 to 2012.
If you or your child is injured by an impaired driver, you should contact a Maryland drunk driving injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Avoid Slip, Trip and Fall Injuries
Slip and fall injuries are common on Halloween. Sidewalks are often crowded and there may be obstacles. Children run up unfamiliar paths to get candy. Often slip and falls lead to serious injuries such as concussions and hip fractures.
Make sure children are not wearing long robes or costumes that pose a trip hazard. Ensure they have sensible walking shoes. Children should be instructed to walk and not run and to use flashlights to look out for potential trip hazards.
Don’t Use Candles in Pumpkins
Candles may put you in the Halloween mood but they are a significant cause of house fires and burn injuries.
The National Fire Protection Association states candles are responsible for an average of 82 deaths, 800 injuries and $295 million in property damage every year.
Many manufacturers of Halloween costumes use low cost, flammable fabrics. The consequences of children’s costumes catching fire are truly horrific.
Avoid real flames and consider purchasing LED flameless candles to place in pumpkins. You should never trick-or-treat carrying candles or fireworks such as sparklers.
Avoid Dangerous Pranks
Halloween is meant to be scary but you should avoid reckless behavior. Recent incidents involving clowns should make trick-or-treaters think twice about clown costumes.
In some cases, dangerous Halloween pranks have resulted in lawsuits. In Massachusetts, a school system was sued after a teacher asked a 15-year-old boy to answer a knock on the door.
He opened the door and encountered a masked man holding what appeared to be a running chainsaw. The student was so terrified, he jumped back, fell and fractured a kneecap.
Although rumors about poisoned candy are typically urban myths, it makes sense to check your child’s candy bag before they start eating.
Some candy may be old or unsuitable for younger children. Hard candy poses a choking hazard for younger kids.
You should wait until you return home to check candy. This practice also allows parents to moderate their children’s sugar intake.
Contact Your Children Regularly
Ensure older children who are trick-or-treating without an adult have a fully-charged cell phone and know how to call 911 if they get lost. You can also turn on location tracking functions on smartphones so as you know where your children are. Get them to send you regular text updates.
Don’t Stay Out Late
Set a time for your children to stop trick-or-treating. Typically, on Halloween candy supplies have dried up before 8 p.m. and homes stop welcoming trick-or-treaters. Aim to get out early on the streets and don’t stay out late. Ideally, trick-or-treat when it’s still light.
Create a Safe Environment for Visitors
Homeowner negligence is a major cause of Halloween injuries. If a guest to your property suffers an injury, you may face a lawsuit.
If you are planning to welcome trick-or-treaters, clear a path in your yard. Homeowners and tenants should remove all obstructions and hazards such as slippery leaves, hoses, garden tools, and plants in pots. The sidewalk and porch should be well lit.
Place lights around hazards that cannot be removed like protruding tree roots. Repair loose railings on porches or any jagged paving stones that pose a potential safety threat to Halloween guests.
If you do not wish to welcome trick-or-treaters avoid lighting up and decorating your home on Halloween night.
Exercise Care with Pets
Pets and Halloween don’t always mix well. Although some kids like to take their dogs trick-or-treating, pets can become agitated in crowds and bite or scratch other trick-or-treaters. Homeowners should restrain dogs if visitors are arriving at their houses.
About half of all Maryland dog bite victims are children. If you or a family member is attacked by an animal, you should consult an experienced Maryland dog bite lawyer.
Halloween is great fun for most children who go out trick-or-treating. However, you should be aware it is also one of the most dangerous nights of the year for children.
Please follow Halloween safety tips and exercise care. If your child suffers an injury on Halloween a driver, a homeowner, a pet owner, or another party may be to blame.
Please call the Law Offices of Randolph Rice for a free and confidential consultation at (410) 694-7291.