CATEGORY: Tupelo Stories

AUTHOR: GIBSON

HED: Halloween drivers, frolickers urged to act safely

By Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

Halloween conjures thoughts of ghouls, goblins, witches, princesses and Power Rangers.

And lots of sweets, of course.

But safety precautions also should come to mind.

Local law enforcement officers and medical officials are asking drivers and parents to be especially aware of the safety of trick-or-treaters as they gather their Halloween goodies Fright evening.

"Drivers need to use extra caution not only on major thoroughfares, but particularly in neighborhoods," said Tupelo Deputy Police Chief David Ledbetter.

Halloween safety is no laughing matter.

Spooky health statistics show that children are four times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident during prime trick-or-treating time on Halloween than any other day of the year, according to the American Medical Association.

Based on a 10-year study, an average of four child pedestrians between the ages of 5 and 14 have died every year on Halloween evening between 4 and 10 p.m., compared with an average of one death for that age group during the same time ever other day of the year, according to Centers for Disease Control.

"The fact that there's a fourfold increase in child deaths due to vehicle accidents alarms us," said Dr. J. Edward Hill, a Tupelo physician who is a member of American Medical Association Board of Trustees. "We want to encourage parents to be particularly vigilant regarding Halloween safety this year."

Injuries related to Halloween happen primarily after dark, when dark costumes or masks limit drivers' or children's ability to see each other and when trick-or-treaters dart out between cars or stray from sidewalks, according to information compiled by the American Medical Association.

Parents can take precautions to make their kids more visible to motorists during the annual candy gathering ritual.

Trick-or-treating before dark can help keep little ghouls, goblins and monsters safe, said Corinth Police Chief Fred Johnson.

Children trick-or-treating after dusk should carry flashlights, safety experts suggest. Reflective tape on costumes and treat bags also can help drivers spot tricker-or-treaters in dark costumes.

Opting for face paint instead of masks can help kids see cars better.

Treat givers also can do more than turn on porch lights Friday night to welcome kids.

Pick up obstacles kids could trip over, like bikes and garden hoses, said Dr. Don Smith, a doctor at Okolona Family Medical Clinic and North Mississippi Medical Center's Express Care.

Halloween revelers determined to leave tricks instead of treats should beware, law enforcement officers said.

Older children need to be reminded that vandalism is a serious matter and not just a Halloween prank, Johnson said.

"Parents need to talk with young drivers about the seriousness of vandalism," Johnson said.

Tupelo Police Chief Jerry Crocker said the city has been lucky over the last few Halloween holidays.

"It's been fairly mild," Crocker said. "We've had nothing major for the past few years."

Costume suggestions

- Encourage trick-or-treaters to use face paint and makeup instead of masks.

- Make sure any masks do not obstruct a child's vision.

- Choose flame-resistant costumes.

- Make sure costumes aren't so long they can trip the child, and that shoes fit properly.

Candy connections

- Don't snack on treats until parents or an adult has inspected them.

- Parents should look for signs of tampering such as small pinholes in wrappers and torn or loose packages.

- Don't give out or accept unwrapped treats. When in doubt throw it out.

Rules of the road

- Children under 12 should always be accompanied by an adult or responsible teen.

- Travel in familiar areas along a pre-established, well-lighted route.

- Always use sidewalks instead of walking on the street. If there are no sidewalks, use the left side of the street facing traffic.

- Look both ways before crossing; cross at corners, and never between cars.

- Take off any masks when crossing the streets to have a clear view of the road

- Review Halloween safety with your kids every year.

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