1110VETSDAYAUDRobert Park, physical education teacher at Wauka Mountain Elementary School in North Hall, talks during a schoolwide assembly about the Veterans Appreciation Ceremony.
Oct. 31, thanks largely to attentive parents and drivers, has been a safe day in recent years for Hall County kids, and most children across the country.
Public safety officials are more likely to deal with teenage vandalism than serious child injuries. And all those stories about poisoned Halloween candy are mostly just that — stories.
But the risks remain. Children are more than twice as likely to be struck and killed by a car today than any other day of the year, according to statistics compiled by Safe Kids Worldwide. Those numbers are markedly lower than a study done 10 years ago by the Centers for Disease Control, however.
A little less than 400 children nationwide are killed in pedestrian accidents each year, while Halloween averages about two per year, said Moira Donahue, pedestrian safety program manager for Safe Kids Worldwide.
There are about 41 million trick-or- treaters in the United States ages 5 to 14, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Centers for Disease Control conducted a study of child mortality statistics from 1975 to 1996 that concluded children were more than four times more likely to be killed in pedestrian accidents on Halloween. But that study, now dated, was skewed by unusually high numbers in one year, Donahue said.
Donahue stresses that parents and motorists need to be vigilant as the sun sets today.
"You’ve got this risky time of day, with all these trick-or-treaters and all these people driving home from work. It has a lot of ingredients for a dangerous evening," Donahue said.
Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle cautions that candle flames from jack-o’-lanterns on porches and doorsteps should be closely watched in a bone-dry drought year.
"We should be more careful this year than any other," Cagle said. "When it’s not being watched, there’s always a potential for accidents to happen."
Cagle said small fires from vandals are the biggest worries for fire officials on Halloween. Last week someone set fire to pine straw from a Halloween decoration that was stuffed in a mailbox of a home off Stephens Road, Cagle said.
"It may seem small, but we treat these very seriously," he said. "They think they’re out there to have fun and no harm is done, but things like that can lead to something very, very serious."
Hall County Sheriff Maj. Jeff Strickland said deputies do occasionally see an increase in vandalism on Halloween night, mostly from toilet paper-rolled yards or eggings.
Strickland said patrols will be beefed up tonight, particularly in subdivisions where the foot traffic of trick-or-treaters is heaviest.
"We urge everyone to use extreme caution on Halloween night," Strickland said.
Neither Cagle or Strickland could recall a serious injury to a child on Halloween in recent years.
As for the treats, more than likely they are perfectly safe.
According to Snopes.com, a Web site that tracks, details and debunks urban legends, in the 10 years that the National Confectioners Association ran a Halloween Hot Line, it could find no verified instance of candy tampering.
The biggest thing parents should concern themselves with is making sure trick-or-treaters are closely supervised and visible to drivers as they go door-to-door.
"We tell parents they should accompany children at least through age 10," Donahue said.