A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Keven Moore: Halloween treats are sweet, but beware of tricky safety hazards for pedestrians and homes

Halloween is a fun, spooky time of the year for kids, and many homeowners are willing to pay good money to decorate their homes to add a little extra fright into the night.

According to the Halloween Industry Association in 2017, more than 179 million Americans participated in Halloween festivities, up from 171 million the year before. They spent an estimated $9.1 billion on candy, decorations and costumes, up from $8.4 billion in 2016. The average American family spent $86.79 on the holiday.

Around 90 percent of Americans will buy candy, spending $2.6 billion. Almost 75 percent will purchase Halloween decor, spending $2.7 billion.

The top costume for children is reported to be an action hero or superhero, while the top pick for adults was once again a witch. In fact, the top five costumes for adults were a witch, vampire, zombie, pirate, and Avengers character. The top five for children were princess, superhero, Batman, Star Wars character, and witch. Pets weren’t left out of the equation and 10 percent of consumers dressed their pet up as a pumpkin.

Halloween is also one of the most dangerous days of the year for pedestrians. With so many children and families trick-or-treating after dark on Halloween night, it comes as no surprise that pedestrians under the age of 18 have a greater chance of being killed by a car on Halloween than any other day of the year.

According to a State Farm research report, nearly a quarter of fatal child pedestrian crashes occurred between 6 p.m. and 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 shows that Halloween, including the so-called “Devil’s Night,” has about 60 percent more incendiary and suspicious structure fires than on an average day.

Now that I have frightened you with all these statistics and facts, here are safety 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.

• 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.

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.

• When lighting candles inside jack-o-lanterns, use long, fireplace-style matches or a utility lighter.

• 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.

Be Safe, My Friends

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

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