Perhaps more than any other holiday, Halloween tends to draw the most public attention towards child safety. Yet more often than not, this added attention is focused on all the wrong things. This section discusses the many myths about Halloween safety, and will help parents focus on the actual threats on Halloween.
Halloween Safety Myths
When it comes to child safety on Halloween, many of the concerns parents have are as imaginary as the costumes kids are wearing. So let’s debunk a few of these Halloween safety myths:
Halloween safety myth #1: Strangers might poison candy
Reality: There has never been a documented case of strangers poisoning candy. The only known incidents involve cases that either turned out to be hoaxes or were committed by parents attempting to disguise the murder of their child by blaming the death on poisoned candy. (Carroll & Vreeman, 2009)
Halloween safety myth #2: Razor blades in candy
Reality: Once again, we’ve encountered no documented cases in which a child was injured by chewing on candy with a razor blade inside. It’s not impossible for it to happen – we’ve seen one case in which someone (likely bored teenagers) taped razor blades to equipment on a kids playground structure (nobody was injured) – but it’s not as if there are armies of sadistic people out there melting razor blades into candy. Even if there were, it would be much harder to injure a child this way than you might think: the candy would provide a natural buffer against the blade, and the child would likely discover the razor before the sharp part was exposed enough to do them harm.
Halloween safety myth #3: Sex offenders and child abductors are on the prowl on Halloween night
Reality: Although there have been isolated cases of sexual assaults or child abductions on Halloween in the past, such cases occur every day of the year, and statistics show them to be no more prevalent or numerous on Halloween than, say, November 1st or March 18th. The ‘pumpkin sticker campaigns’ and other community initiatives taken against sex offenders on Halloween are nothing more than an extravagant waste of community resources. Here’s why:
The vast majority of people on sex offender registries are not community rapists nor child abductors, and if you gathered 10,000 pedophiles in a room, the number who would even entertain the thought of abducting a child could be counted on one hand. (Most cases involve sexualized affection, not aggression, and most would never intentionally do a child harm.) Those few who would tend to serve long sentences when caught and don’t end up in the community because of this, B) The odds are more than 100/1 that if a child is abducted or harmed, it will be at the hands of someone not on that list. More than 99% of the danger comes from your OTHER next-door neighbors and community members. In other words, those houses without the pumpkin sticker are more dangerous to your child by a factor of more than 100 times. C) The dubious logic of such campaigns aside, what about November 1st? It’s not as though children come out on Halloween and then go into hibernation the other 364 days of the year. If someone is intent on harming a child, ramping up pretend supervision for one night of the year accomplishes absolutely nothing. D) Most of all, if children are being accompanied on Halloween night AS THEY SHOULD BE, it makes no difference who they’re getting candy from. Worse yet, such community campaigns may give marginal parents a false sense of security.
The real dangers on Halloween
So what are the real dangers on Halloween? The actual risks are much more down to earth:
- Pedestrian deaths: When you mix a favorite party holiday for grown-ups with masses of children walking the streets after dark, bad things can happen. Child pedestrian deaths spike by more than 4 times on Halloween compared to what they are at other times of the year.
- Fire: Halloween decorations and children in heavy costumes can result in a slight uptick in fire-related accidents or home fires.
- Other crime: Children are often targeted for theft, physical assaults, bullying, or other crimes / harassment by older kids or even adults.
- Drunk driving: If you’re going to be out on the road with your children, beware of all the other drivers, some of whom may have started their Halloween party early by drinking.
Child safety on Halloween
Safe trick or treating guidelines are discussed in the next section. Here are some other safety issues on Halloween:
Choosing a safe Halloween costume
- If you make your child’s costume, be sure to use fire-retardant materials.
- When picking out costumes, try to avoid ones that restrict eyesight or your child’s movement. If you plan on trick-or-treating outdoors, be sure the costume is appropriate for your state’s climate. Whenever possible, try to avoid costumes with masks, which limit your child’s field of vision.
Other Halloween safety tips
- Use battery powered lights in jack-a-lanterns. Avoid open flames.
- Most of all, as a motorist use extreme caution on Halloween. Enter all driveways and alleys carefully, and drive very slowly around neighborhoods. Expect children to dart out into the street.