With Halloween around the corner, it’s a good time to consider ways to improve the safety of trick-or-treaters planning to roam neighborhoods and communities. The holiday brings delight to many but also heightens the risk of pedestrian injuries, as costumed characters dart from house to house or are distracted by scary sights and sounds, especially after nightfall.
Those who are handing out treats at home can also help improve safety by keeping pathways to the door well lit and free of any obstacles like bicycles or garden hoses that might block the path of visiting goblins, witches and ghosts. Drivers should be extra careful on the roads that day, especially between 5:30 and 9:30 p.m., when trick-or-treaters are most likely to be out.
It’s always best for an adult to accompany young children when they trick or treat. Often your town or park district will offer Halloween activities earlier in the day so you can avoid going out after dark. Older children should travel in groups and create a “buddy system” to get each other home safely and prevent walking alone.
Here are some more suggestions:
— For older children going out with friends, agree on a specific time when they should return home and get flashlights with batteries for everyone. Carry a cellphone for quick communication.
— Only go to homes with a porch light on and, ideally, a well-lit pathway.
— Make sure that shoes fit and costumes are short enough so kids don’t trip on them. Hats and/or masks should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes and blocking vision.
— Remember reflective tape for costumes and trick-or-treat bags.
— Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk and crosswalks. If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
— Never cut across yards or use alleys.
— Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom). Never cross between parked cars or out of driveways.
— Don’t assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing trick-or-treaters. Just because one car stops doesn’t mean others will.
— Caution kids about the risk of distracted walking, including text messaging, talking on or looking at their phone phone and listening to music.
Research has shown that evenings from 6 to 9 p.m. are the riskiest times of day for child pedestrians at any time of year. About 64% of child pedestrian deaths occur in daylight hours or at dusk, and most (62%) child pedestrian traffic fatalities occurred mid-block, rather than at intersections.
While parents often worry about tainted candy on Halloween, cars and traffic are really the bigger concern. Let’s keep the scares to a minimum and enjoy this Halloween.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Sadiqa A.I. Kendi, MD, MPH, FAAP, CPST, is the division chief of the pediatric emergency medicine division at Boston Medical Center and associate professor of pediatrics at the Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine. Dr. Kendi is an expert in pediatric injury prevention, with a focus on health equity.
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