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Keven Moore: Halloween can be scary and dangerous, as well as fun; please take all precautions

Halloween is a fun festive and spooky time of the year for kids as many homeowners go all out to decorate their homes to add a little extra fright into the night. However it’s a holiday that comes with consequences, and I’m not talking about skinned knees and or sugar highs either.

It a very dangerous night for many and I’m not referring to the likes of Michael Myers in the film Halloween or Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th movies.

One hundred and fifteen child pedestrian fatalities occurred on Halloween over the past 21 years. That is an average of 5.5 fatalities each year on October 31, which is more than double the average number of 2.6 fatalities for other days according to an article in bestplaces.net. The fact is children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween as on any other day of the year according to the National Safety Council.

The littlest Halloween participants need to know how to be safe. (Wikimedia photos)

A further study from Protectamerica.com claims 41 million children trick or treat every year and that 3,800 Halloween-related injuries occur each year and 70% of parents don’t accompany their children trick-or-treating. Of which 63% of children don’t carry a flashlight while they are trick-or-treating and 82% of parents don’t use reflective tape or other visibility aids on their child’s costume.

What is more alarming to me is that 65% of parents don’t discuss Halloween safety with their children and 12% of children younger than 6 are allowed to trick-or-treat alone.

According to a State Farm research report, nearly a quarter of fatal child pedestrian crashes occurred between 6-7 p.m., the “deadliest hour” of Halloween night. More than 70 percent of the crashes occurred mid-block rather than near an intersection or crosswalk. Older children between ages 12 and 15 represented the most fatalities, followed by children ages 5 to 8.

Halloween is also another day in which house fires occur. Decorations are the first thing to ignite in 900 reported home fires each year. Two of every five of these fires were started by a candle. Research has also shown that Halloween, including the so-called “Devil’s Night,” has about 60 percent more incendiary and suspicious structure fires than on an average day. There is $13 million worth of property damage caused by fires each Halloween injuring 41 people in house fire accidents.

Now that I have frightened you with all this data, here are some tips to help keep you safe:
Halloween Costume Safety

• Use only flame-resistant costumes and wigs, and when you make your own costumes make sure you use flame resistance material.

• When choosing a costume, stay away from long trailing fabric that can catch fire or cause somebody to trip and fall.

• If your child is wearing a mask, make sure the eyeholes are large enough so he or she can see out.

• If a mask is worn, make sure that the eyeholes are big enough to see not only in front but peripherally as well. You may have to cut them open further yourself.

• When buying Halloween makeup, make sure it is nontoxic and always test it in a small area first.

• Buy your costumes from a reputable online or brick-and-mortar store that sells high-quality products.

• If they are carrying a prop such as a scythe or sword, make sure they are made out of a flexible plastic that will bend if fallen on. Most of the props available today are made of flexible plastic.

Trick or Treating Safety

• Pre-plan the trick-or-treat route – make sure adults know where children are going.

• A parent or responsible adult should accompany young children as they make their way around the neighborhood.

• Make sure trick-or treaters can see, and be seen. Give them a flashlight or a glow stick to light their way. Add reflective tape to costumes and trick-or-treat bags. Have everyone wear light-colored clothing to be seen.

• Instead of masks that can cover the eyes and make it hard to see, use face paint instead. Masks only increase the chances for a trip and fall injury.

• Falls are common on Halloween, and inappropriate shoes contribute to the problem. Children should wear well-fitting, sturdy shoes and avoid wearing oversized shoes and their mother’s high heels.

• Costumes should be short enough to prevent children from tripping and falling.

• Be cautious around animals, especially dogs.

• Visit only the homes that have a porch light on. Accept treats at the door – never go inside.

• Avoid walking in the street and walk only on the sidewalks. If no sidewalk is available, walk at the edge of the roadway, facing traffic. Look both ways before crossing the street, and cross only at the corner.

• Don’t cut across yards or use alleys. Don’t cross between parked cars.

• Make sure an adult checks the goodies before eating. (Make sure to remove loose candy, open packages and choking hazards. Discard any items with brand names that you are not familiar with)

• Avoid using cellphones and other electronic devise while prowling your streets to avoid a distracted walking accident.

• Swords, knives, and similar costume accessories should be of soft and flexible material. So that your child will not fall on to a sharp or hard object.

Homeowner Safety

• Put your pets away and lock up your animals.

• Dried flowers, cornstalks and crepe paper catch fire easily. Keep all decorations away from open flames and other heat sources like light bulbs and heaters.

• Use a battery-operated candle or glow stick in jack-o-lanterns. If you use a real candle, use extreme caution.

• Make sure children are watched at all times when candles are lit.

• Be sure to place lit pumpkins well away from anything that can burn and far enough out of the way of trick-or-treaters, doorsteps, walkways and yards.

• Remember to keep exits clear of decorations so nothing blocks escape routes.

• Sweep leaves away from your sidewalks and steps, they can become slippery when wet.

• Make sure all smoke alarms in the home are working.

• People expecting trick-or-treaters should remove anything that could be an obstacle from lawns, steps and porches.

One additional note to consider, 1 in 13 children have food allergy so be sure to offer a variety of treats to allow the ghosts and goblins to choose from, because they prefer not to have to share their loot with their parents.

Be Safe, My Friends

Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He is also an expert witness. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both Lexington and Northern Kentucky. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com.

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