Halloween can be one of the most fun and exciting holidays of the year. Dressing up, carving pumpkins and eating chocolate candies are all part of the fun! But, while we look forward to the tricks and treats, true scares involving loved ones can ruin the holiday if we don’t take proper safety precautions.

Due to the high amount of foot traffic by children and teens, Halloween is often the holiday with the highest number of child pedestrian accidents, and one of the top five days for fires caused by candles. Children are also twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween as opposed to any other day of the year, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, a global organization committed to preventing accidental childhood injury.

Additionally, Halloween is a particularly deadly night because of the high number of drunken drivers on the roads, mixed with the increased number of people on foot. In fact, over the five years from 2007 to 2011, 23% of pedestrian fatalities on Halloween night involved a drunken driver, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Experts say planning ahead and remaining vigilant are the keys to a safe holiday. Below are ten tips that can help you and your loved ones have a happy and safe Halloween!

1. Go During Safe Trick Or Treat Times
You don’t have to wait until it is pitch-black outside to go trick-or-treating. A good trick or treat time is right after an early dinner and just before dusk when you can keep better track of your children and you are able to see the others that you encounter on the street. Besides, if you are the first person there, you will have the best selection of candy!

2. Steer Clear Of Masks
While masks are a fun part of many costumes, do your best to recreate the mask with face paint. Having a mask on can sometimes impair the vision of the child wearing it. If your child absolutely must wear a Halloween mask, make sure it’s a snug fit, is ventilated and has large enough eyeholes so they can see all around them.

3. Be Visible
If your kids will comply, choose costumes that are brightly colored so that they are easier to see in the dark. If they really want a dark costume, apply some reflective strips to their costume. You could also have them wear glow necklaces or carry glow sticks and flashlights.

4. Never Go Alone
It’s important that your children have an adult chaperon at all times while trick or treating. SafeKids.org recommends that children under the age of 12 should be supervised by an adult when trick-or-treating. You should also discreetly add some emergency identification information such as the child’s name, address & phone number to their costume or on a bracelet in case your child happens to get separated from the group.

5. Walking Tips
Be sure that your children understand simple traffic rules, such as stopping and looking both ways before crossing the street, and staying in a crosswalk if one is available. If you have to cross at a light, make sure you have the proper “walk” signal before you proceed. Inform your children that they should never assume that they have the right away when crossing the street, especially at night on Halloween.

6. Knock on Doors That You Know
Encourage your children to only trick-or-treat at homes where they know the inhabitants. If they know everyone on the street, except for one house, they could ask the neighbors about that one house. If a home is dark or has no Halloween decorations, that is typically a good sign that they are not up for trick-or-treaters.

7. Don’t Go Inside
Trick-or-treaters always seem to run across a house or two where someone invites them to “come in.” Remind your little ones that they should never go inside anybody’s home while trick-or-treating. They can easily get the candy they seek from the porch or if the homeowner is persistent, inform them to simply turn and walk away.

8. Stay On Track
It might be tempting to take a short cut through an alley or cut through someone’s yard, but that can sometimes pose a danger. Stay on streets and in neighborhoods that are well lit and where there are plenty of people around.

9. Say No!
If you’re children are old enough to trick or treat in a group without you, be sure and designate a time for their return. Teach your children that if a stranger offers to give them a ride or take them to a Halloween Party, they should say “no.” Stranger danger is important to remember no matter how old your kids are, even while trick-or-treating.

10. Taste-Testing Patience
Make sure your little goblins know that trick or treating is for gathering candy, not eating it as they receive it. You know they’re going to be tempted to take a taste before you’ve had a chance to inspect it, so pack a goody bag with some of your own Halloween candy so they have something to snack on if they just can’t wait until they get home.

Additionally, adults should consider the following to ensure a fun and safe Halloween for all:
1. Remain extra cautious when driving. Consider driving teenagers to any holiday events rather than giving them the car keys when so many young children are out and about.

2. Consider participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project in which families agree to hand out nonfood treats, or treats guaranteed to be free of common allergens.

3. Avoid overloading electrical outlets with lights when decorating. Consider flameless options instead of candles for jack-o-lanterns and other decorations.

4. Supervise young children when carving pumpkins. Or consider other decoration projects such as painting pumpkins or stickers that don’t require knives.

5. Protect pets from fear, stress or potentially getting lost on Halloween by keeping them inside, preferably in a room away from the main door.

Halloween is a frightfully fun holiday, and taking a few simple precautions to maintain safe and fun traditions makes all the difference.

By: Amanda Keller, LCSW, SAP