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Staying Safe on Halloween

Last week, WakeMed Trauma Program Director Sylvia Scholl shared the following Halloween safety information with our staff.  These are great tips for parents and kids alike to review before heading out to Trick or Treat.

On a night when many children spend hours in close proximity to cars as they navigate through neighborhoods gathering candy, pedestrian safety should be a top priority for both drivers and parents. On average, twice as many kids are killed while walking on Halloween compared to other days of the year.

This year, Halloween falls on the night the clocks are turned back, but kids will still be out while it is dark – making it harder for drivers to see them. This lack of visibility makes it important for drivers to slow down and watch out for trick-or-treaters, especially around crosswalks. Pedestrian safety is not just the responsibility of the driver, however, parents can do their part to help kids stay out of the emergency room on Halloween by emphasizing safe pedestrian behaviors before they go out trick-or-treating.

The simple act of slowing down on neighborhood roads will not only make the tricks and treats of Halloween more enjoyable for everyone, but also it could save lives.  Children younger than age 12 should not be alone crossing streets at night without an adult. If older kids are mature enough to go trick-or-treating without adult supervision, parents should make sure they go in a group and stick to a predetermined route with good lighting.”

Halloween is an exciting holiday for children, but they can be vulnerable to injury on this night. To ensure trick-or-treaters stay safe, Safe Kids Wake County recommends that children:

  • Cross the street safely at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. Look left, right and left again when crossing and keep looking as you cross. Walk, don’t run, across the street.
  • Walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible. Children should walk on direct routes with the fewest street crossings.
  • Slow down and stay alert – watch out for cars that are turning or backing up and never dart out into the street or cross in between parked cars.
  • Costumes can be both creative and safe. Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and, if possible, choose light colors. Masks can obstruct a child’s vision, so choose non-toxic face paint and make-up whenever possible instead. Have kids carry glow sticks or flashlights in order to see better, as well as be seen by drivers.

Drivers also need to do their part to keep trick-or-treaters safe from harm:

  • Slow down in residential neighborhoods and school zones. Remember that popular trick-or-treating hours are during the typical rush-hour period of 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.
  • Be especially alert and take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.
  • Slowly and carefully enter and exit driveways and alleys.
  • Reduce any distractions inside your car, such as talking on the phone or eating, so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.

While pedestrian safety is a main concern on Halloween, parents and kids should also be careful when dealing with candy. “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,” adds Ms. Scholl. “Remind children to only eat treats in original and unopened wrappers.”

Halloween is “fright night” for humans but it also can be  a “frightening night “for dogs.  Screaming, running, spooky children in masks make many dogs uncomfortable, nervous and frightened.

Halloween costumes are fun and are meant to disguise our normal appearance. Dogs do not understand this change in appearance and may become frightened. Costumes that change the way a person walks, stands, or their general appearance may cause a dog to react differently than usual even with those they know.

Keep in mind that children on Halloween night are excited and doing their best to be scary. This is not a fair or safe situation for even the best of dogs. Even the normally terrific tolerant family dog can find this night hard to handle.

Along with costumes being frightening to a dog there are some that may become interesting too. Swords, tails and dangling things may be fun for an excited dog to chase.

Every child and every costume is a new opportunity for different reactions from the same dog.

Set up your dog with their own private Halloween bash in a safe quiet spot with a yummy treat of their own. Here are some tips to help make this safe haven most comfortable.

  1. Stuff a food dispensing toy with yummy mush and freeze it until it is “Halloween” time.
  2. Use a fan or radio for white noise. Something consistent is best.
  3. Be sure the blinds are down or the dog is not watching kids coming and going by the window. This will only frustrate him and allow him to practice barking and carrying on at the window.

Chocolate is toxic to dogs.  Put candy in a safe spot.

For more information on kid and dog safety on Halloween check out http://www.familypaws.com

For more tips on how to help kids become safer pedestrians on Halloween, as well as throughout the year, visit www.usa.safekids.org/wtw/halloween2009.html.

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