Safety urged as holiday approaches

Parents, children and drivers can all play a role in a safe Halloween.

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As children and adults prepare for the excitement of Halloween, it is important to be aware of potential risks. According to a study released by Safe Kids U.S.A, child pedestrian fatalities are twice as high, on average, during Halloween compared to any other night of the year.

The study, which polled 935 parents with children nationwide, showed only a third of parents talk to their kids about Halloween safety each year, and 12 percent of children 5 and younger are allowed to trick-or-treat alone.

"It's definitely a potentially dangerous night for kids," said Susan Anfinson, social responsibility director for YMCA in Walla Walla.

"It is alarming to hear that children 5 and younger are trick-or-treating without an adult," she said.

In addition to the Safe Kids U.S.A. study, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons also issued warnings about Halloween safety, including the risks of pumpkin carving. According to the AAOS, more than 17 percent of injuries to children on Halloween are injuries to fingers and hands, including lacerations and fractures.

To cut down on the risks of trick-or-treating, Anfinson suggested parents consider alternatives such as parties or other events. Anfinson said the YMCA is just one organization that will host a free event for parents and children on Halloween.

"It's just a safer venue than trick-or-treating on the streets," Anfinson said.

If you do go trick-or-treating, here are a few safety tips to remember:

A responsible adult should accompany children, especially when crossing streets.

Children old enough to trick-or-treat without adult supervision should travel in groups and stick to a predetermined route.

Teach children never to enter any home without your permission, and only to approach homes that are well lit.

Children should tell you or a trusted adult if they see anything "weird" or unusual.

Make sure costumes fit well and allow good visibility. Costumes should also be highly visible, or children should carry a glow stick or other light.

Teach children to yell "No!" or "Get away!" if someone is trying to get them to enter a home or car.

Children should trust their feelings if something seems wrong, and should kick and scream to get away or attract attention.

Wait to eat candy at home, where kids and parents can examine candy for signs of tampering.

Drivers can also help reduce the risks to trick-or-treaters during the Halloween Holiday.

Drive slowly and stay alert, especially in residential neighborhoods. Children do not always behave predictably.

Turn on headlights early, as pedestrian traffic will be unusually heavy.

Remember children wearing costumes may not be able to see or hear you.

Reduce distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road.

For more safety tips, the city Police Department recommends visiting www.halloween-safety.com.

Luke Hegdal can be reached at lukehegdal@wwub.com or 526-8326.

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