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Posted On by Ralph
Halloween is fast approaching. It might feel like it has been approaching for months. (I know I started seeing costume flyers even before the back to school flyers stopped). But we all know that complaint of the holidays starts earlier every year. (I have already started seeing Christmas centered ads). But despite the months and months of buildup, the day does actually arise. This year we are going to share some “spooky” tips (spookiness will vary from tip to tip) on how to keep your children, your car, and your home, safe this Halloween. I want to temper expectations right here. This is not going to be your average Halloween safety blog. This here is real. I might get a little too real. And that might be scary, but it might be a little reassuring. We are not here to sell fear. We are here to educate you. No one is going to follow the advice in those articles. Here are some realistic tips to help you stay safe this Halloween.
Watch your kids and they should be fine. All of this nonsense about how kids can’t see out of masks, I mean make sure the kid can see, but come on. What is with this mask hate? I had a really cool mask once as a kid, it was a little hard to see in, so I moved it up on my head while I walked and pull it back down before we rang the doorbell. It is a mask, so you can take it off and put it back on, very easily. And saying kids should not have props that are too big because they might get hurt, is ridiculous. The real problem is that you are going to end up carrying those things as your child gets tired of holding the prop and uncomfortable in the mask. All of the existing child safety lists talk about reflective tape on the costumes and bags, just give the kids some flashlights. I have seen the comment, “Decorate costumes with reflective tape” far too many times. We coddle this generation too much. Kids know when they can’t see, and from there you just need to stop them from running into the street.
Pedestrian-vehicle collision is one of the most dangerous and most prevalent threats. Costumes are going to be black, for the most part, and that is going to decrease visibility. So make sure that the people in the front and back of the group have flashlights. (If everyone can have a flashlight that would be even better). Something like the small LED MagLite is light weight and very bright. It will increase visibility and illuminate the sidewalk so the kids can see. Don’t let the group J walk. Make it as easy as you possibly can for cars to see you. It all amounts to, watch your kids, and teach them to do the same things that keep them safe every night. They will forget it when they become teenagers, but it will stick until then if you do it right.
You have to remember that even though this is a time that you are taking your child around the neighborhood for candy, it is also a party holiday. That means that there will be drinking, and in most assuredly drunk driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that “In 2012, almost half (48%) of all crash fatalities on Halloween involved a drunk driver compared to 31 percent on an average day that year.” For this reason, it is best to call it a night at 9:00 PM. Most of the teenage parties will not start until after that time. Still be aware once the sun sets, as not everyone parties on a set schedule. Separate even from drunk driving, there is simply negligence. “More than one-quarter (28%) of Halloween crash fatalities were pedestrians, compared to 14 percent on an average day.” (NHTSA) Don’t let yourself or any child become just another statistic. Take logical and accomplishable steps to protect the children around you this Halloween.
As far as the more traditional concerns of Halloween go, urban legends of poisoned candy and razor blade apples are unsubstantiated. In 1983, Joel Best wrote a paper entitled, “Threatened Children: Rhetoric and Concern about Child-victims” about this issue. He discovered that there is a higher probability of traffic fatalities, vandalism, racially motivated crimes, and animal cruelty than there is of tampered candy. Best then partnered with Gerald T. Horiuchi in 1985 to investigate all of the candy tampering claims from newspapers spanning from 1958 to 1983.
The name of the paper is “The Razor Blade in the Apple: The Social Construction of Urban Legends”. In it, they found that fewer than 90 of the claims could be considered tampering, and from there, none of those could be shown to be perpetrated by strangers. More than malicious intent, you should be focused on standard health hazards. If the wrapper is open, or the candy is homemade, it might have germs and bacteria. Check the date on the candy to make sure that it has not expired. Despite all of the preservatives in the various forms of candy, they are food products that are susceptible to spoilage.
It seems that trick or treaters have begun starting earlier in the day in the recent years. Talking to the parents in my neighborhood, several of them have elected to take the kids out during the day until the sun goes down. That means that awareness should be up the entire day, especially during twilight. When the sun is beginning to set, it is traditionally regarded as the most difficult time to see as a motorist. People getting up there in age suffer from different eye weaknesses that are pretty severe, and the glare from the low hanging sun can cloud windows and mirrors.
Without becoming an optometry blog, I will try to explain this. Your eyes have cones and rods. Cones help you to see in the light, and rods help you see in the dark. The balance between long shadows and light make it hard for your eyes to adjust. Also, the light is changing very quickly which is forcing the eye to constantly recalibrate. Night time is still a very unsafe time for drivers and pedestrians, but more people are aware of the risks. With awareness, you can try to compensate for the hazard.
In terms of driving safety, you should account for visual impairment as well as any other hazards that you may encounter. Always base your driving off of the conditions that you are confronted with. Even if that hazard is just a very dark street, you will need to modify your driving style. We all have parties to get to and elaborate costumes to put on, but safety needs to come first. That means your safety and the safety of pedestrians. Pull over to the side of the road if you cannot see. Do this in a safe manner, so that you are not hit by oncoming traffic. Decrease your speed when you are driving through residential neighborhoods. Residential areas also include spaces with apartment buildings, as these might be where children are returning to after a night of trick or treating.
When you are leaving your car unattended on Halloween night, you need to make sure that it is protected. The problem with going to a different neighborhood is that you will most likely be driving. For this reason, most online Halloween safety articles will recommend that you not leave your own neighborhood. That is rarely an option. Now, the temptation might be to drop your child off at the party. If the child is a teenager that you trust and has friends that you also know and trust, then this is a fine solution. It frees you up to return to your own home and pass out candy. After you drop your kid off, park your car in the garage, behind a gate, or behind the house. If your child is not old enough to trick or treat without adult supervision, then you should accompany them regardless of where the party is. Ask the hosting adult, while you are RSVPing, about secure parking. This might not be an option, but it does not hurt to ask.
If you have multiple children, all going on different Halloween outings, make sure that you know and trust the adults that are supervising the groups. This might also open you up to getting a carpool together with some of the other parents. The fewer cars that are taken, the fewer cars are vulnerable to vandalism. You may consider getting chaperones to also ride together if the car space will allow it. But in any event, you might not be able to park your car behind a layer of security and will have to park on the street. Make sure that the area is well lit. Under a street light is preferable, and/or in front of a neighbor’s house that will be passing out candy the whole night. You want your car to be visible to other parents out with their kids, as they might prevent your car from being defaced. Also, make sure that your car is locked.
If you have the party at your own house then you can secure your vehicle and supervise your children. If you are concerned with having a party at your house, you can simply have it be the meetup location. If you have multiple children this can be a good way of having all of their friends over. It does not need to be a headache, and might be easier than taking several kids to different parties. A multi-generational group of kids will also free up one parent to stay home to pass out candy (and that will help with your home security.)
Try to increase visibility as often as you can. If you are going for a haunted house vibe that is one thing, but a house with very low visibility can cause hazards for trick or treaters. Have your porch light on for sure, as this is an indication that your house is participating this Halloween. Add lights to a path that is clear of obstructions. It does not have to be so bright that it ruins your plans, but nothing should be so dark that it causes an obstruction for visitors. In these walkways, there should also be nothing that can be tripped over. Kids are going to be running around (not your kids, though, you raised them better than that) and perhaps running away in nervous fear.
When you are scaring, you should also make sure that you wait until people have sure footing. That means, do not scare people that are walking up or down steps. When I was younger my father made a group of bats that could be dropped on approaching trick or treaters. This trap was right over the few steps to our porch. After the first few scares, it became apparent that all scaring should be done before or after the steps. People would freak out and almost fall. Thankfully we were lucky and no one was injured. Those bats still drop, but they do so before the kids get to the stairs. Similarly, you don’t want a dog, or other animal running at them. This can cause potential liability sure, but more importantly, it may harm a pedestrian or the animal. With how frequently you may be opening the door, it is best for your animals if they are restrained.
Having at least one person at home is going to help with keeping your home safe. If that person can also pass out candy, it is an addition to your protection. Often trick or treaters will seek revenge through property damage. The slights that young people might demand some recompense for can usually be avoided through candy and politeness. If you are not at home, consider leaving a bowl of candy on the front porch. Make sure the bowl is not something that you care about losing, and hope that the first group of kids does not take all the candy. But if you are at home I would suggest giving out candy yourself. Also, I would stick to candy. Kids can get pretty upset when they get apple’s, oral healthcare products, pencils, etc.
I have had friends that simply ignored, or pranked, trick or treaters and it results in the classic way. One friend had their house TPed. This was down easily because the family was hiding from the windows. Through not trying to be seen, they could not see the house being vandalized. That same friend had their house egged after they gave out toothpaste for an entire night. Toothpaste was also smeared along the house. And most shockingly of all, a close friend of mine once had their power turned off. That person was pretty obviously watching television and not coming to the door. What he thought was a power outage was later found to be his circuit breaker being turned off. The breaker box was behind his fence, which means that someone had overcome the properties gate security and onto his property. If you are home, aware, kind, and know your neighbors, this should significantly decrease your chances of Halloween vandalism. Just actively participating in the holiday goes a long way.
Holidays exist for fun and enjoyment. Participation in the festive nature of Halloween is going to weaken some protections and add others. Your kids might not be as safe as they would be locked at home, but it is important to let them have fun and not ruin the night with your neurosis. Halloween is like a brief introduction to the outside world. It is busy and full of distractions. This day has the ability to impart so much learning about safety and security to your entire family. Don’t let the myths of the media control how you live your life. And similarly, don’t let the myth of perfect security keep you from enjoying a community event. Protection comes down to two basic characteristics: protection and practicality. Don’t let an obsession with either cloud your better judgment. Find a balance. Be safe. And HAPPY HALLOWEEN!