We do it every year at this time. We roll out stories about the dangers of Halloween and never add any context. Here’s what you need to know to make sure your little ones have a spooktacular time and you don’t stress about it.
First, there has been only one documented case of a child dying from poisoned Halloween candy. It’s a tragic 40-year-old story of a father who bought a life insurance policy on his son and days later killed him on Halloween with Pixy Stix laced with cyanide. Almost 10 years later, in 1983, “Dear Abby” wrote a column to “remind [readers] that somebody’s child will become violently ill or die after eating poisoned candy.” The myth grew from there.
Second, we give you the obligatory warning about traffic safety. I think it is good advice to stay in well-lit neighborhoods and off busy streets, but the notion that trick-or-treating is especially dangerous is way overblown. The Department of Transportation looked at pedestrians under the age of 21 killed by cars on Halloween over a five-year period from 2006 to 2010. In four of those years, the numbers were higher than on the day before and the day after Halloween, but the numbers are tiny. On the evenings before and after Halloween, an average of two young people nationwide were killed by cars. On Halloween, the average is three, a 33 percent increase. I’ll bet there are at least 33 percent more kids out on the streets on Halloween, so actually it could be a safer night than the one before or after.
Third, we always warn you about the danger of your child being burned by brushing up against a jack-o-lantern lit with a candle. I think it is a good idea to make sure your child’s costume (or any clothing) isn’t flammable, but I haven’t been able to find a single case of a costume catching fire.
And fourth, we promote law enforcement web sites where you can identify all the sex offenders in your neighborhood. Even with all the power of the Internet at my fingertips, I couldn’t find a single case of a child being lured into a house and assaulted.
So, don’t worry. My advice is enjoy and have fun, and make sure the kids brush their teeth before they go to bed!