By Beth J. Harpaz
NEW YORK — 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. A study published in 2010 in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics found that the most emergency room visits involving children around Halloween are related to sports.
The report stated nearly 18 percent of injuries on Halloween were to the finger and hand, and a third of those were lacerations, with some likely resulting from pumpkin-carving. But the report added that “a much higher proportion of injuries that occurred on Halloween were associated with sports, including football and basketball, than with knives.”
Which is not to say parents should spend Oct. 31 relaxing. (Are parents ever allowed to relax?) 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: URBAN LEGEND VS. REALITY
Of course you should examine goodies and make sure kids avoid treats that aren’t sealed.
But know this: “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.
Best says there have been more than 100 reports of tainted treats going back to 1958, but they include a father who poisoned his child to collect insurance money, incidents where someone gave out booby-trapped goodies but nobody was injured, and cases where kids had food allergies.
According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation, 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.
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. 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.