Happy Halloween—Safety urged tonight

Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 1:00 am | Updated: 3:39 pm, Wed Oct 31, 2012.
By Suzanne Le Breton St. Tammany News | 1 comment

As thousands of little ghouls and goblins and pirates and princesses head to the streets tonight for Halloween, authorities are asking parents and drivers to be extra cautious to prevent the night having a tragic ending.

The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office reminds parents to be prepared and consider safety when planning trick-or-treating routes and costumes.
Sheriff Jack Strain offered these guidelines:
• Walk with your kids up to the door.
• Stay in neighborhoods that are familiar to you.
• Be very aware of loose, flowing costumes. Many homes will have candles on the porch.

He said to keep the child-to-adult ratio low to ensure all children are being properly monitored at all time for safety. “Don’t have one adult trying to manage large group of kids,” Capt. George Bonnett, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office said.

Kevin Foltz, spokesman for Slidell Police said to make sure costumes are flame-retardant and light or bright in color. Dark costumes should have reflective or glow in the dark tape. Costumes should also be short enough to prevent tripping.

He advises use face paints rather than a mask that can obstruct both breathing and vision, and to make sure every child has a nametag complete with their address and telephone numbers and a flashlight.

Treats should not be eaten until the child is home so that you can inspect everything first. Look for signs of tampering and discard all loose and homemade treats (unless you know the person who provided them.

While moving vehicles, dark streets and badly fitting costumes pose dangers for young children; in today’s age parents also need to be especially diligent in knowing who is behind the door their children are knocking on. As Halloween approached, Strain today reminded St. Tammany parents to use his department’s Website to identify registered sex offenders in neighborhoods before bringing children trick-or-treating. Parents may visit www.stpso.com for a map of all sex offenders in St. Tammany Parish. (Click on the red “Sex Offenders” button on the right hand side of the main page). Maps are generated within a certain radius of an address entered by the user. Detailed information is provided, including a picture of the offender and a description of their original offense. State law mandates that sex offenders stay inside on Halloween, turn out the lights, and not answer the door. On Halloween, St. Tammany patrol deputies check every single offender’s residence to ensure they are in compliance with state law. Residents can also sign up for automatic sex offender email notification on the Website. Subscribers automatically receive an email when a sex offender moves into their neighborhood. Foltz said to warn children, at this time and always, to never accept a ride with a stranger and to always tell their parent exactly where they will be going, what time to expect them home and to stick to the plan.

Donald Redman, spokesman for AAA, warned that in addition to those out trick-or-treating, motorist also need to be cautious tonight when out and about.
He has asked motorists to avoid traveling through residential areas. “If possible, try to avoid cutting through residential areas where trick-or-treaters are likely to be present,” Redman said. Obey all traffic signs and signals. “The risk of killing a pedestrian increases more than many people realize with just small increases in speed,” he said. “A pedestrian is nearly twice as likely to be killed if they’re hit by a car going 30 mph compared to at 25 mph, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. What seems like a small difference-just 5 mph-can literally be the difference between life and death.” Redman said to watch for children walking on roadways, medians and curbs. In dark costumes, they’ll be harder to see at night. Also, be aware that trick-or-treaters may not be paying attention to traffic and may be trying to cross in the middle of a block or between parked cars. Motorists should scan far ahead when driving in residential areas, watch for children and cautiously monitor their actions. Turn on your headlights to make yourself more visible – even in the daylight. AAA recommends that parents accompany young trick-or-treaters at least until the age of 12. Since children are small and often hard to see even in well-lit situations, it’s important to be sure a child’s Halloween costume is flame-retardant and visible with retro-reflective material if out trick-or-treating past dusk. Parents and trick-or-treaters should cross streets only at the corner, and never between parked cars or mid-block. Be sure that approaching cars come to a complete stop before stepping into the roadway.