Trick-or-treating is back! For those who celebrate Halloween, this is a wonderful time of the year. For an experienced plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer, however, Halloween can be a hazardous night. It’s never a bad call to review Halloween safety tips.
Children and teenagers, decked out in Halloween costumes, will be out and about, going from house to house to gather treats from strangers, frequently in unknown neighbourhoods and in darkness. And don’t forget people of all ages attending Halloween parties where alcohol or drugs may be in the mix.
There’s also a new issue to consider this year: many children are, as yet, unvaccinated. So, in addition to common-sense safety precautions that children and parents alike should follow, there are steps to ensure we all do our part to lower the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19 in our communities. CTV News offered a helpful review of tips to follow in their article Here’s how to trick-or-treat this Halloween safely.
The possibility of havoc on Halloween is endless. This is illustrated by the case of Hall v. Pinette, 2004 BCSC 1367. An experienced truck driver was driving down a familiar road on Halloween night when three youths jumped out from behind bushes and began to egg his truck. Startled, he swerved into the other lane of traffic and hit the plaintiff’s vehicle head-on, seriously injuring the plaintiff. As a result, the truck driver was sued for damages. The judge accepted his evidence that he had been startled by the egg-throwing youths but found that his evasive action of steering into the oncoming lane was not reasonable. As a result, the truck driver and the three youths were found to be equally liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.
An even more egregious example of Halloween mayhem is set out in R v Chickie, 2006 BCPC 192. The 27-year-old Chickie, described by his own lawyer as a young punk with a loud car, was criminally charged with assault with a weapon, a motor vehicle, among other things. On Halloween night, he was driving dangerously in a neighbourhood filled with young trick or treaters. A parent objected to his driving, yelling at him to slow down as there were children all over the road. Chickie then deliberately drove into him with his car, causing the victim to somersault over the hood, notwithstanding that the victim was walking with his 7-year-old child. The defence lawyer argued that Chickite should receive only a conditional sentence, but the judge found his conduct deserving of imprisonment. He received a 3-month sentence of incarceration, and his driver’s license was suspended for two years.
Pedestrian Accidents on Halloween
Pedestrian accidents cause severe injuries, and young trick-or-treaters are vulnerable. In fact, pedestrian casualties in Alberta are most likely to occur in October due in part to the change of seasons and the relatively new low-light conditions.
On Halloween, children are about two times more likely to be in a pedestrian-vehicle collision. The risk of these collisions is the highest between 4 PM and 10 PM, with the hour of 6 PM to 7 PM being the highest risk hour. About one in every four pedestrian-vehicle collisions is caused by an impaired driver. Most pedestrian accidents do not occur at a crosswalk or intersection, but when children dart out behind cars, jaywalk, or otherwise ignore road safety rules. Children aged 12 to 18 are most often killed in these pedestrian-vehicle collisions on Halloween, but 40% of the fatalities are children aged 7 to 12.
To channel Halloween fears into positive energy, we offer the following tips for the safety of young Halloweeners, drivers and homeowners:
Halloween Safety 101
- Make sure Halloween costumes fit correctly and are not tripping hazards
- Avoid costumes with elaborate masks or hoods, which have visibility problems – try hypoallergenic face paint instead, BUT we are still dealing with COVID-19, so incorporate a protective mask into their costume
- Make sure your children are dressed for the weather, including correct foot ware – avoid foot ware that is hard to walk in
- Make sure your children are highly visible by selecting costumes with bright colours or adding reflective tape, and send them out with flashlights, glow sticks or reflecting lights. NOTE: 63% of children don’t carry a flashlight while out on Halloween, increasing the possibility of an accident.
- If you’re walking with a very young child in a stroller, make sure that the stroller has reflective tape on it as well as it will often be the first thing out in the traffic
- For very young children, put your child’s name, address, and phone number in your child’s clothing in case they become separated from you
- Chaperone your young children as they trick-or-treat until they are of sufficient age to take care of themselves – some authorities suggest that age 9 is a minimum, and others 12
- If you allow your older children to trick-or-treat unsupervised, talk to them about the risks of trick-or-treating before they go out, know what route they plan to take, encourage them to go out in groups of at least three, make sure they have a cell phone and ask them to check in periodically, and give them a curfew
- Caution your children to stay together with their group and not wander off on their own
- Caution your children not to be texting, messaging, or emailing, or engrossed in social media while walking. This caution applies equally to parents chaperoning their young children.
- Tell your children to only go to homes that have a light on
- Tell your children to never go inside a house while trick-or-treating, even though they may be invited in
- Remind them to stay outdoors and socially distant from other groups of trick-or-treaters, and wash their hands thoroughly when they return home
- Insist on the “No treats until you get home” rule
- Examine your children’s treats when they get home, and make sure they are safe, discarding any homemade food items, candies that are not properly wrapped and candies that could cause choking.
Street Safety Reminders for Trick-or-Treaters
- Stick to one side of the street at a time while trick-or-treating and staying on sidewalks (don’t run across people’s lawns and avoid taking shortcuts through backyards or alleys
- Cross streets at the corner, using traffic signals and crosswalks
- When crossing a street or road, look left, right and left again before crossing and making eye contact with drivers before and during crossing
- Stay off cell phones and stay aware of your surroundings
- Sticking to familiar surroundings
- Walk where it’s well lit, facing traffic and OFF the road.
- Keep an eye out for cars or trucks that were turning or backing up and
- Never cross a street or road between parked cars.
Drivers Should Take Extra Care on Halloween
If you are driving on Halloween night:
- Turn on your headlights and stay alert.
- Take it slow, especially in residential areas. Trick-or-treaters are excited and distracted. You need to be prepared for unexpected jaywalking or children darting out into the street.
- Take extra time at intersections and watch for people in medians. Enter and exit driveways or parkades slowly and with care.
- Don’t drive distracted. Put your cell phone away and stay focused on the road.
- Be sure to obey all of the rules of the road, including coming to a complete stop at all traffic signals and at stop signs and observing posted speed limits
- And, if you are one of those Halloween party-goers, don’t drive impaired!
Halloween Safety for Homeowners
- Remove all obstacles from your property that may be a tripping hazard for the trick-or-treaters, such as hoses, lawn decorations or toys
- Clear your property of leaves, snow, or ice to prevent falls
- Use a reasonable number of extension cords for your decorations, and secure them to the ground
- Fix wobbly or broken stair or porch railings
- Do not use candles in your lanterns, which could inflame a costume-use an LED light instead
- Make sure your property is well lit, so the trick or treaters will have full visibility, and to ward off pranksters
- Clear parked cars from the curb to enhance visibility
- Keep your pets inside, in a safe spot and away from exterior doors
- Give out only sealed or properly wrapped treats
- In these COVID times, do not leave out a communal bowl of candy that all can put their hands in
We sincerely hope that your Halloween celebration is safe as well as fun for you and your family.