Children Trick or Treating in Chicago
We've got a few tips for avoiding trick-or-treat troubles, including sticking to neighborhoods you are familiar with. Photo By: Alejandra Palés via Flickr, CC BY 2.0
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Keep Halloween Spooky But Safe with Simple Preparations

Halloween is supposed to be a bit spooky. But the scary stuff is supposed to be pretend: ghosts, vampires, goblins and witches.

You shouldn’t have to worry about the dangers of your kids being out in traffic after dark, costumes catching fire or anything else that can make the tricks and treats anything but fun. But in 2011, there were more than 3,500 Halloween related injuries across the country reported in the festive months of October and November, according to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Those included burns, falls and even lacerations from pumpkin carving.

Fortunately, there are a few easy steps to remember to make sure that the only surprises on Halloween are the ones you plan. Most of these are common sense and things you might remember from when you were a kid.

Prevent Costume Catastrophes

Trick-or-treating often occurs at dusk, when jack-o-lanterns on porches hold flickering candles and make-believe pirates wield their trusty swords — eek! Check out these tips to steer clear of costume catastrophes.

  • Opt for flame-resistant costumes. The CPSC recommends looking for fabrics like nylon or polyester. The label should even say “flame-resistant.” Be wary of long capes, big sleeves and anything else that can catch a candle flame.
  • Make sure your kids can see. The Chicago Police Department says face paint allows for better vision than a mask. Check that hats and scarves are secure, as well — no falling down in front of the eyes.
  • Make sure your kids can be seen. Think bright-colored costumes, with reflective tape on dark colors and treat bags. Carry flashlights, too.
  • No tripping. High heels or too-big shoes aren’t a good idea. Also watch for trip hazards from costumes.
  • Those weapons shouldn’t be a weapon. Creepy costume accompaniments such as swords, knives and the like should be made of soft and flexible material.

Avoid Trick-or-Treat Troubles

With costumes donned and bags in hand, consider the following to keep the trick-or-treating experience under control.

  • Kids should be accompanied by a parent or adult at all times. Chicago Police recommend that trick-or-treating take place only during daylight hours. Several communities in Northern Illinois have set times and locations for trick-or-treating — some of them take place on a weekend, instead of Thursday, Oct. 31. Check out HauntedIllinois.com for the listings.
  • Stick to familiar homes and neighborhoods. Some neighborhoods have signals that their home is accepting trick-or-treaters: The porch light is on, the house is well-lit, or the front screen door is open. Remind your kids never to enter a stranger’s house or car.
  • Inspect treats. Check out the candy to ensure it’s fully wrapped. Kids shouldn’t eat treats until an adult has checked them for tampering.

Decorate Without Doing Damage

One way to avoid any trick-or-treat problems is to have a party at home. But even then, you need to be safe while decorating:

  • Carve with care: Let the adults do the pumpkin carving. Kids can scoop out the insides and choose the carving pattern. Also, be careful if you use a candle inside. The CSPC recommends keeping your jack-o-lantern away from curtains or decorations that can burn. Another idea is to avoid the knife and candle altogether, and let kids use a marker to draw their favorite scary face on the pumpkin.
  • String ‘em up. Make sure the string of lights has been tested by a recognized lab, like Underwriters Laboratories (check for the UL symbol on the tag). Also, replace cracked bulbs and discard strings with frayed wires.
  • Clear the way. Help prevent trick-or-treaters tripping by removing obstacles like pumpkins and other decorations from the pathway to your home.

In many ways, Halloween hasn’t changed much since we were kids – it’s about the costumes, the candy and the fun. With a few simple preparations, you can help keep the fun from taking a frightening turn.

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Driving at Night: 5 Tips for Driving Safety

Have you ever thought about the unique dangers of driving at night? If you’re like most drivers, the answer is probably no. But according to the National Safety Council [PDF], traffic death rates are almost three times greater at night than during the day.

Driving at night is more dangerous for several reasons. In addition to being able to see less at night, your depth perception and peripheral vision are also severely limited at night. All of these can have a major impact on your reaction time on the road.

In addition to limited visibility at night, most of us are usually more fatigued at night, which can make concentrating on the road more difficult. This driving reality, accompanied with the stress of your day-to-day activities, can also distract you and put you at a higher risk for a traffic accident.

Luckily, you can take a few steps to protect yourself and minimize the dangers of driving at night. Here are 5 driving safety tips for driving at night to help you stay safe on the road:

1. Do a Quick Car Safety Check-Up

Before you drive at night, make sure your headlights, taillights and signal lights are clean and working properly. If you’re driving alone, you can back up to a shop window, press your brakes, and watch your rearview mirror for your brake lights to show in the window’s reflection. You should also consider taking your car to the shop and making sure your headlights are properly aimed. Mis-aimed headlights can blind other drivers and reduce your ability to see the road.

2. Avoid Driving Distractions

While you should never use your cell phone while driving or engage in other distracted driving activities, these behaviors should be particularly avoided at night when your visibility is poor and already reduced.

3. Be A More Courteous Driver

Even if you are on a road that you are familiar with, you should reduce your speed and increase the distance between the car in front of you when driving at night. This will give you more space and time to react in case the car in front of you does something unexpected.

4. Use Your Headlights

Even if it’s dusk, it is always better to turn on your headlights. While headlights may not help you see the road better, they will make it easier for other drivers to see you. But remember to keep your headlights on low beams so you don’t blind the drivers in front of you.

5. Get Your Eyes Checked

As people get older, it is more important than ever to have your eyes checked every year for conditions such as cataracts that can affect night time driving. If you wear glasses, you should talk to your eye-care provider about special anti-glare glasses that can help you see better at night.

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