A yard display sets the mood for trick-or-treaters. Despite myths, tainted candy isn't a high risk at Halloween. /
Hey mom and dad: Halloween’s not really all that scary — except when it comes to traffic safety.
Despite warnings about tainted candy, candle fires and even child abductions, real Halloween headlines are rarely about any of those things. Instead, tragedies related to the holiday typically involve trick-or-treaters hit by cars. Fortunately even those accidents are relatively few in number.
And here’s something that might surprise you. The most emergency room visits involving children around Halloween are related to sports, according to a 2010 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Which is not to say parents should spend Oct. 31 relaxing. Obviously, you need to know where kids are, monitor candy hauls, and make sure they can see out of their masks and won’t trip on their costumes. But here are some statistics to provide a reality check on what’s really scary about Halloween.
Tainted candy myth
You should examine goodies and make sure kids avoid treats that aren’t sealed.
“There isn’t any case of a child killed or injured from a contaminated treat picked up in the course of trick or treating,” according to Joel Best, a professor at the University of Delaware who has extensively researched the subject.
In four out of six years between 2006 and 2010, more pedestrians under the age of 21 were killed by cars on Oct. 31 than on Oct. 30 or Nov. 1, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The numbers are small: A total of 16 deaths took place on Oct. 31 during those five years, compared to 11 on Oct. 30 and 10 on Nov. 1.
But a quick survey of news stories from 2011 suggests that traffic safety on Halloween is one area where parental vigilance is warranted. Last year, children and teenagers trick-or-treating or heading to Halloween parties were injured or killed in several cities.
One way to increase pedestrian visibility on Halloween: Have kids carry a flashlight or glowstick, or add glow-in-the-dark necklaces or reflective tape to costumes.
Statistically it’s rare for children to be kidnapped by strangers, but it seems like there’s always a case in the news. In the last few weeks, a girl was found murdered in Colorado and another child was abducted, then found, in Wyoming. So it’s understandable that Halloween makes parents nervous, with kids out after dark, sometimes unaccompanied by parents, often approaching strangers to ask for candy.
Obviously parents should keep track of kids, stay in touch by cell phone with teens, and make sure younger children have adult super-vision.
But perhaps you’ll find this reassuring: There is no data to suggest an increase in reports of missing children on Halloween, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
Candles are often used for spooky decor and to light pumpkins. Be mindful if kids in billowy costumes are nearby.
But the fact is, according to Dr. John Hall, division director of the National Fire Protection Association, “there is no localized spike in reported fire injuries around Halloween.”
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