Woodward, Okla. —
One of the biggest tips for safe trick-or-treating is to not go trick-or-treating.
Or at least not what we traditionally think of as trick-or-treating, meaning kids going door-to-door in neighborhoods asking for candy.
"Nationwide more and more people and groups are encouraging more local events and less trick-or-treating," said Melissa Hobbs, public education officer for the Woodward Fire Department.
Hobbs said children can still collect plenty of candy and have lots of Halloween fun at community events, and do so in a more controlled and safer environment.
"At a community event, usually the parents are with their children, so the children are being watched and supervised," she said. "But when they go out trick-or-treating, the parents may not be with them and that's when worse things can happen."
Because often children get caught up in all the holiday excitement and safety is the farthest thing from their mind.
"Kids get excited running from house to house sometimes. I remember when I was a kid, we'd have competitions to see who could get the most candy," Hobbs said. "But there may be vehicles parked along the street and when a kid darts out from behind one to cross the street to the next house, a car driving down the road may not see them."
While Woodward has been fortunate not to have too many serious accidents in the past, Hobbs said vehicle versus pedestrian accidents are always a major concern on Halloween.
One sobering statistic, she said, is that "on Halloween, you basically double the odds of children getting run over because there's just so many out and about."
She said that statistic is according to the child injury prevention organization Safe Kids USA (safekids.org).
In Woodward, several places are offering community events where children and parents will not have to worry about walking through traffic.
"The Main Street event that they've been promoting is a good one," Hobbs said.
As part of the Main Street Trick-or-Treating, traffic will be blocked off along Main Street between 13th and 7th Streets from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. so that children can go around to various merchants collecting candy.
A number of churches are also offering events at their facilities, including Woodward First Baptist Church with its Kids Fest from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Woodward's Nazarene Church with Trunk-or-Treating from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
However, for those parents who decide to allow their children to still do traditional trick-or-treating, Hobbs said there are some important safety tips they can follow to help make sure they stay out of trouble.
"For kids, we always tell them to stay on the sidewalks and paths. And be sure to tell them to look both ways before crossing a road," she said.
Hobbs said drivers need to be looking out for kids too.
"For those who are out driving, slow down. And no distractions, that's a big thing I'm teaching teenage drivers at the high schools, but it applies to everyone. Don't be on your phones or texting at all, because there will be people everywhere on Halloween night," she said.
As an additional safety measure, she said drivers should "turn your headlights on even earlier than you would normally. And again slow way down."
To help make children easier for drivers to spot, Hobbs said parents can give them glow sticks, place reflective tape on the front and back of their costumes and on treat bags, have them wear lighter colored costumes, and/or carry a flashlight.
Some other important safety tips for parents to keep in mind, Hobbs said, is to make sure the child's costume fits well and they can see through any masks, to help them avoid any trips and falls.
And of course, "always check their candy when they get home. Basically make sure it's never been opened before."
Those giving out candy can also play a role in making sure every child's Halloween is a safe and happy one.
"If you want kids to come to your house, then make sure it's well-lit and pick up anything that might cause someone to trip or fall," Hobbs said.
She also offered some tips for pet owners.
Hobbs said she was speaking with Animal Control Officer Slab Criswell "and he brought up some good points about putting your pets up on Halloween. Because even though they may have never attacked before, they could potentially get scared and react badly in a situation with so many strange people in costumes."
The Red Cross also offers some additional safety tips including:
• Look for flame-resistant costumes.
• Plan the Trick-or-Treat route and make sure adults know where children are going. A parent or responsible adult should accompany young children as they make their way around the neighborhood.
• Visit only the homes that have a porch light on. Accept treats at the door – never go inside.
• Instead of masks, which can cover the eyes and make it hard to see, consider using face paint.
• Walk only on the sidewalks, not in the street. If no sidewalk is available, walk at the edge of the roadway, facing traffic. Look both ways before crossing the street and cross only at the corner. Don’t cut across yards or use alleys. Don’t cross between parked cars.