SPRINGFIELD – Halloween is on a Friday night this year, when traffic is heavier than usual as people hurry to get home for the weekend.
On such a potentially dangerous night of the year for child pedestrians as Halloween, Safe Kids of Western Massachusetts headquartered at Baystate Children’s Hospital urges parents to prepare children to act safely and drivers to take extra precautions. On average, twice as many kids are killed while walking on Halloween compared to other days of the year.
“Kids need proper safety instructions before they go out trick-or-treating,” said Mandi Summers, co-coordinator of the Safe Kids Coalition headquartered at Baystate Children’s Hospital. "Many kids will be out trick-or-treating while it is dark when it is more difficult for drivers to see them.”
Parents need to remind kids about safety while walking before they go out trick-or-treating. Children should bring flashlights or glow sticks with them, carry reflective bags, or have reflective tape on their costumes to increase visibility to drivers. Children should not wear masks which may inhibit their ability to see hazards.
Summers noted there are several simple and effective behaviors that parents can share with kids to help reduce their risk of injury.
Safe Kids recommends that children under age 10 do not trick-or-treat without adult supervision. If kids are mature enough to go trick-or-treating without supervision, make sure they go in a group and they stick to a predetermined route with good lighting. Parents must also remind kids to:
• Cross streets safely. Cross at a corner, using traffic signals and crosswalks. Try to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them. Look left, right and left again when crossing, and keep looking as you cross. Walk, don't run, across the street.
• Walk on well-lit sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible. Children should walk in familiar areas with minimal street crossings.
• Be a safe pedestrian around cars. Watch for cars that are turning or backing up. Never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.
Drivers need to do their part to keep trick-or-treaters safe from harm. Safe Kids also reminds motorists to be extra careful this Halloween and recommends that drivers:
• Drive more slowly. Slow down and anticipate heavier than usual pedestrian traffic.
• Lights on. Be sure to drive with your full headlights on so you can spot children from greater distance.
• Be especially alert. Remember that popular trick-or-treating hours are during the typical rush-hour period between 5:30-9:30 p.m.
Although pedestrian safety is a main concern on Halloween, parents also need to keep in mind that there are other hazards for their children on this holiday. Summers suggests that parents look for non-flammable costumes and non-toxic designations when choosing Halloween makeup and make sure their children wear well-fitting, sturdy shoes to prevent trips and falls. And, children should only go to homes where the residents are known and there are outside lights on as a sign of welcome.
Hospitalist Dr. Harry Hoar III of Pediatric Hospital Medicine at Baystate Children’s Hospital, reminds parents that a “healthy” Halloween is as important as a “safe” Halloween.
“Halloween can be a scary time for parents who have children with food allergies because so many candies have peanuts or tree nuts in them,” said Dr. Hoar.
“Parents need to consider their child’s safety from Halloween treats and snacks provided at school and other holiday parties, and especially need to examine the treats brought home on Halloween night,” he added, noting it’s a good idea to accompany a young child with food allergies on Halloween night so he or she doesn’t decide to sneak a taste of an unhealthy treat.
While allergies are a main concern on Halloween, parents and kids should also be careful with any candy received. "While kids never want to wait to dive into their candy, it is best to check sweets for signs of tampering before children are allowed to eat them," said Dr. Hoar. “Remind children to only eat treats in original and unopened wrappers."
For more information about Halloween and general safety, call the Safe Kids office at Baystate Children’s Hospital at 413-794-6510 or visit www.usa.safekids.org. And, for more information on Baystate Children’s Hospital, visit www.baystatehealth.org/bch.