AgriLife Extension experts offer tips for safer, healthier Halloween
While Halloween means children dressing in costume and going through the neighborhood in search of treats, it can be a dangerous time for them to be on the streets, plus the treats can be unhealthy for them, said Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.
“Even though Halloween comes before the fall time change this year, the days are still getting shorter, and with shorter days comes more nighttime driving,” said Chelsea Stevens, AgriLife Extension family and community health agent, Williamson County.
Nighttime driving is more dangerous and requires extra attention from motorists, Stevens said.
“In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 44 percent of those killed in traffic accidents on Halloween night from 2012 to 2016 died in crashes involving a drunk driver,” she said.
Stevens also noted NHTSA data showed nearly two-thirds of all fatal pedestrian crashes and about 20 percent of fatal bicycle crashes occur in low-light conditions.
“The large number of young pedestrians out on Halloween evening makes this an especially dangerous time,” she said. “Motorists, parents and children can follow certain safety tips to make Halloween less dangerous.”
Stevens said tips for motorists include:
• Slow down in neighborhoods and watch for children walking on roads, medians and curbs.
• Take extra precautions when entering or exiting driveways.
• Be alert to children darting out from between cars or from behind bushes or shrubs.
• Don’t drink and drive. If attending party where alcohol is to be served, designate a driver.
Tips for parents include:
• Have an adult accompany children at all times to supervise their trick-or-treat activities.
• Teach children to stop, look and listen before they cross the street.
• Take a flashlight and have your child wear reflective strips or patches on their clothing or costume to be more visible to motorists.
• Be certain a child’s mask does not obstruct vision or impair hearing.
• Make sure costumes do not impede walking or driving ability.
Tips for child and adult pedestrians include:
• Before crossing a street, stop at the curb or edge of the road and look left, right and left again before crossing.
• Walk, don’t run, from house to house or across the road.
• Cross streets only at intersections and crosswalks, then obey any traffic signals and watch for turning cars.
• Walk on sidewalks whenever possible. If there are no sidewalks, walk on the left side of the street facing traffic.
“By taking some extra time to making sure all of us — drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists — obey the rules, Halloween can be a safe time for all,” Stevens said.
Elaine Montemayor-Gonzalez, AgriLife Extension program specialist for the Healthy Texas initiative in Jim Wells County, said many Halloween treats can be a little “spooky” as far as child nutrition and health are concerned.
The holidays are a perfect time to have valuable teaching lessons with your child about the importance of eating in moderation and what can happen if you consume too many sweets, Montemayor-Gonzalez said.
“It’s important to let your child know that all the candy they get while trick-or-treating does not have to be eaten all at once,” she said. “Also let them know they have the option of giving away some of their candy to a food bank or a military service member serving overseas.”
She said the academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests putting healthy alternatives in your candy bowl for distribution on Halloween. Some examples of more healthful treats include:
• Whole-grain cheese crackers.
• Mini-bags of pretzels.
• Fruit snacks made with 100 percent fruit and added vitamin C.
• Sugar-free gum.
• Low-fat animal crackers.
• Small rice cereal bars.
• Fruit cereal bars.
• Fruit cups.
• Low-fat pudding.
Montemayor-Gonzalez said the academy also recommends avoiding snacks that contain nuts in the event a trick-or-treater has allergies, and possibly offering a non-food “treat” alternative.