How to keep your kids safe on Halloween

If this is like previous Halloweens, the emergency room at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta will treat children for cuts and banged heads from falls, or even worse, those struck by cars.

In fact, children are twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than on any other day of the year, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, a global organization committed to prevent accidental childhood injury. One metro Atlanta neighborhood was concerned enough to get a road in its area closed for a few hours for trick-or-treaters.

Halloween is a particularly deadly night because of the high number of drunken drivers on the roads mixed with the increased number of people on foot. In fact, over the five years from 2007 to 2011, 23 percent of pedestrian fatalities on Halloween night involved a drunken driver, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Experts say Halloween is fraught with safety hazards — everything from benign tummy aches to tripping over costumes or on poorly lit sidewalks to falling to getting hit by cars. They say planning ahead and remaining vigilant are the keys to a safe holiday.

“This is a night we have to be more mindful of safety and protecting our kids — from constant supervision to planning your route to taking your cellphones and flashlights,” said Beverly Losman, program manager of injury prevention at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and director of Safe Kids Georgia. “It’s also important to be safety-conscious with costumes — reflective tape costs pennies at a hardware store. If your child has a sword, don’t go with a pointed one that could hurt someone.”

In one Decatur neighborhood, neighbors banded together to close Mount Vernon Drive, a street highly concentrated with cars — and trick-or-treaters — but no sidewalks. The Glennwood Estates Neighborhood Association filled out an application for the closure for a few hours beginning at 5:30 p.m., and it was approved by Decatur police. Fliers were distributed to alert people about the closure of this family-friendly neighborhood, which fills up with trick-or-treaters on foot from the neighborhood — but is also inundated by families living outside the neighborhood.

“Our neighborhood has become more and more desirable,” said Tom Atkinson, a member of the neighborhood association. “And some people come from outside — Halloween tourists — and they will drive down the middle of the streets and let their kids out of the car.”

Atkinson said while it’s the first time he knows of that the neighborhood has asked for special permission to close a street on Halloween night, the association may consider expanding the closure in future years.

On Halloween night, Atkinson and his wife plan to take turns trick-or-treating with their sons, ages 5 and 8. One will accompany their children knocking on doors. The other will stay home to dish out candy. When Atkinson first moved to the neighborhood in 2002, he and his wife doled out three big bags of candy. This year, they expect to go through six bags.

He arms his kids (who will dress up in colorful body suits this year for Halloween) with glow sticks to help them be seen in darkness. But that’s just part of the hypervigilance.

“I am going to be — obnoxiously — in the middle of the streets and making sure cars come to a complete stop, and they can only inch around me,” he said. “And I will watch my kids like a hawk.”

The NHTSA urges people who may drink alcohol to designate a sober driver and plan a way to safely get home.

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