UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Halloween can be scary when the children of your neighborhood transform into ghouls and goblins, princesses and witches for trick-or-treat fun. But nothing sends a chill down a parent’s spine like the realization that trick-or-treat could turn into a tragedy.
According to Susan Rzucidlo, pediatric trauma program manager at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, roughly four times as many children between 5 and 14 are injured or killed while walking on Halloween evening compared with other nights of the year.
“This year we have found that we are treating more children being struck by cars than in the past 5 years,” Rzucidlo said. “Because of this, our pediatric trauma team is concerned that there may be more injuries this Halloween than usual.”
So, Rzucidlo says, Halloween fun should come with extra caution.
She offers advice to keep in mind as you prepare for the big night:
Kids should wear something bright. Add reflective tape to costumes not easily seen in the dark.
Add glow-in-the-dark accessories like a wand or a sword that you can find at most discount stores.
Avoid big, baggy costumes, and make costumes short enough to avoid tripping. Remember, heels are not easy to walk in, especially if they do not fit properly.
Since masks can obstruct a child’s vision, try make-up instead. Also, consider a glow-in-the-dark bag or one decorated with reflective tape. Have kids carry glow sticks or flashlights to see better, as well as to be seen by drivers.
“To be safe, you need to be seen,” Rzucidlo said.
Teach your children safe “walking” habits and be a good role model. Cross the street only at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. Look left, right and left again and keep looking as you cross.
Walk, don’t run, across the street. Walk on sidewalks or paths. Never shine a flashlight at a driver.
“Children younger than age 12 should not be alone crossing streets at night without an adult,” Rzucidlo said.
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 safe, predetermined route with good lighting.
Drivers, be on guard. Be especially alert. Slowly and carefully enter and exit driveways and alleys. Drive more slowly and anticipate that children will be distracted. Be sure to drive with your headlights on and never use a cell phone or other electronic devices while driving.
Don’t pass vehicles that are stopped that could be dropping off children. Children are excited on Halloween and not necessarily paying attention.
“They want to get to the next house, and they are not thinking about getting there safely,” Rzucidlo said.
Remind your child not to go inside a stranger’s house and only go to homes with lights on. If your child is older and with friends, remind him to not stray from the group and to not cut through alleys or fields.
Always remind your child not to eat the treats until you check open packages or if they were tampered with.
For more tips on how to keep kids safe while walking on Halloween and throughout the year, visit www.usa.safekids.org. To learn more about keeping your family safe at home, play and on the way, contact Safe Kids Dauphin County, led by Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital at 717-531-7233.