By Dawn McCaslin
Driving on Halloween can be a nerve-wracking experience for anyone trying to navigate an area with children. As the sun sets, little ghosts, ghouls and witches take to the streets, unaware of the dangers around them. A little planning and knowledge on how to handle this unpredictable night can help you avoid a potential disaster.
Children typically have one goal on Halloween: to acquire as many sweets and treasures as possible in the shortest amount of time. They should be accompanied by a responsible adult to ensure they observe the basic rules of safety, but many are not. If you plan on driving through any neighborhoods with trick-or-treaters, use the utmost caution.
Here are a few steps you can take to keep yourself and pedestrians safe:
- Drive slowly. Halloween is a time of excitement and anticipation for children. Remember that adults may be so focused on keeping an eye on their children, they may forget to watch the road for oncoming vehicles.
- Be patient and take your time. Expect to stop frequently as youngsters run from house to house or as families prepare to cross the street. Allow plenty of time so you can take as many precautions as possible, especially in high-traffic neighborhoods.
- Go around. If you are familiar with alternate routes that will take you around, rather than through busy neighborhoods, you will cut down on possible obstacles and potential risks of driving near trick-or-treaters.
- Stay alert. Pedestrians may not be immediately visible from your vehicle, especially if you are driving through an unlit area. Trick-or-treaters may be dressed entirely in black, making them virtually impossible to spot. So slow down and scan the area around your car carefully.
- Beware of cars transporting trick-or-treaters. A growing trend in recent years involves parents driving their children from house to house, pulling up to each driveway and waiting while their children run to the door and back. If you are behind one of these vehicles, do not pass it quickly or without carefully checking the area as you move forward slowly. The vehicle may block your view of children that are running towards another house or across the street.
- Stay home. Plan to arrive home early (well before the sun begins to set) or stay out past the typical rush of trick-or-treating. The best way to avoid the hazards on October 31st: don't drive between 5:30 and 9 p.m.
Whether you enjoy Halloween or not, take a few minutes to ensure that you keep your community safe on a night when youngsters run rampant and visibility is low.
If you love to participate in this quirky holiday, read on to learn about pumpkin carving and recycling your pumpkins, candy-alternatives and tips for safely escorting young people on their quest for sweets.
Most major retailers now carry pumpkin carving kits that include kid-friendly tools and image templates for impressive pictures and faces. You can also print templates off of the internet, tape them to a pumpkin and carve a custom image.
When carving a pumpkin, make sure children and adolescents are supervised at all times, with an adult making most of the cuts -- kid-safe or not, sharp tools and objects should never be within reach or used without a watchful eye. Scooping out the pumpkin and drawing/puncturing the patterns are great activities for young ones.
The thinner the walls of the pumpkin, the easier it is to achieve detail and curves. Taking the extra time to scrape the wall of your pumpkin until it is thin and smooth means effortless carving.
If you plan on using a candle to illuminate your pumpkin, consider cutting a hole in the BOTTOM of your pumpkin so you can easily lift off the body, place a candle on the base and light the candle without risk of getting burned. Don't forget to make a small chimney hole in the top to allow smoke to escape.
Finally, after Halloween is over, be sure to save the seeds -- a quick rinse and short bake in the oven makes a tasty snack. As for the pumpkin, many counties offer pumpkin recycling. Chop it up and add it to a compost bin or call a local farm and ask if they would like your leftover pumpkin.
If you have a child that has food allergies, diabetes or you just prefer to avoid candy altogether consider offering your child a toy or a game in exchange for the majority of their candy. Most kids will gladly relinquish a pillowcase of sugar for the latest video game or action figure.
If handing out handfuls of candy bars just doesn't sound appealing, most party stores sell fun little toys and trinkets in bulk. Consider the latest trend among young children and find a way to incorporate a fun collectible into the festivities. Yu-Gi-Oh cards were a hot commodity not long ago, and handing out a few cards per child was an affordable and popular alternative. Kids love temporary tattoos and glow sticks as well. So load up on fun stuff and your neighborhood kids won't be disappointed.
Ensure that costumes are safe for extended wear in all conditions. If necessary, the length of costumes should be cut to avoid tripping. Also, edges on props should be smooth and blunt and shoes should be worn at all times. Make sure you do a test run of make-up and masks to avoid potential allergic reactions or visual/breathing impairments.
Keep a close eye on jack-o-lanterns with candles and make sure no one gets too close, especially those with long wigs or costumes.
Take a flashlight with you and arm the younger ones with glow sticks, glow bracelets or small lights to make them more visible. Use your flashlight to look for glass on the road, cracks in the pavement or stairs that otherwise might be tripped over.
Teach your children (or the children you'll be accompanying) the basics of pedestrian safety and the importance of being aware of strangers. Halloween should be fun. And by making kids aware of potential hazards, all of you can have a good time.
Halloween parties, trick-or-treating, decorating the house and preparing costumes; all of it leads up to a night that most people have loved since childhood. With a little precaution and patience, it can be an evening that is safe for everyone. For more information on Halloween safety, consider the following websites: