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Who needs a risky Halloween?

By Jay MacDonald ·
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

Maybe it's just me, but how did our holidays become so dang dangerous?

Writing an insurance blog, it's easy to become overwhelmed with the festive damage we do to one another, whether it's the highway carnage that surrounds Memorial and Labor Day, the drunken disasters that accompany St. Patrick's Day and New Year's Eve, or the life-altering consequences, especially to kids, of my least-favorite of public spectacles, the Fourth of July backyard fireworks display.

Given the time of year, you know where I'm going with this, so I'll spare you my traditional Halloween safety rant. Instead, I'd like to share some observations about how our classic American update to the All Hallows' Eve of my ancestral home (Scotland: Represent!) has taken some dangerous detours here in the New World.

A holiday of insurance horrors

I know of no other holiday that matches Halloween for its single-night insurance nightmares. These typically include: slip-and-falls; human-torch-costume-candle accidents; vandalism and burglary claims against home insurance; medical claims to health insurance for ER visits to address assorted trauma; or the impact on auto insurance from the tragic toll taken on trick-of-treaters by motor vehicles.

Think that's overblown? A 2012 State Farm study, with the help of Sperling's BestPlaces, found that children have a greater chance of being killed by a vehicle on Halloween than on any other day of the year. The deadliest hour, accounting for one-fourth of the Halloween fatalities studied, was between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Most deaths involved children ages 12 to 15, most occurred in the middle of the block rather than at intersections, and the drivers responsible for most of the killing were between 15 and 25.

Were we still celebrating the arrival of fall in the cozy, compact Celtic village of old rather than across sprawling U.S. suburbs, the risk to our children would be greatly reduced. Also note that buggy drivers of the earlier day rarely texted.

Costumes and candy have their own issues

The costume industry continues to grow year after year, despite the math: limited visibility + darkness + traffic = needless danger. While manufacturers have taken steps to make costumes fire-resistant, the visibility limitations and flowing snag factor of costumes continue to end in tears. The Celts celebrated by smearing ashes on their faces, which probably scared the horses but no one else.

Finally, there's the candy on Halloween, the high fructose corn syrup holiday. One wonders: What part of "don't take candy from strangers" got lost in the translation from the village to the subdivision? On the other hand, I suspect many parents these days prefer Skittles to the idea of their wee ones ducking for apples in a communal punch bowl as the Celts did. I'm stumped for an answer to this hazard, but I do know that Halloween was meant to be a harvest festival, not a trip to Willie Wonka's.

This Halloween, please observe these tips from the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of American for a family-safe outing: drive sober and slowly; keep candles well out of reach of trick-or-treaters; keep your front porch hazard free; walk in groups; no ear buds; carry a flashlight; keep all pets inside; and inspect all candy before consuming.

Wishing you and yours a safely scary Halloween!

Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus

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Jay MacDonald is a Bankrate contributing editor and co-author of "Future Millionaires' Guidebook," an e-book by Bankrate editors and reporters.

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