Halloween Safety Tips for Trick or Treaters, Drivers and Homeowners
Halloween is big…very big. The National Retail Federation estimates that consumers will spend more than $9.1 billion on Halloween items this year, an 8.3 percent increase from 2016. You don’t have to look any further than your own neighborhood to see that it has become one of the most celebrated U.S. holidays, creepy haunted houses populated by giant spiders and zombie-filled graveyards seemingly pop-up overnight as neighbors transform their homes into spooky Halloween wonderlands.
This is all done in fun, but not everything has a happy ending when it comes to Halloween celebrations. The holiday can also generate some unexpected consequences, as sometimes there are more tricks than treats and this can lead to property damage and injuries.
Mercury Insurance saw an increase in claims for vehicle vandalism and parked car collisions during the three days surrounding Halloween last year. More vehicles were reportedly defaced by keys and dinged than homes were egged during the 2016 season.
“A lot of drivers were dealt a Halloween horror instead of a treat in 2016,” said Kevin Quinn, Vice President of Claims at Mercury Insurance. “Overall, the number of Halloween auto claims and homeowners claims were flat from 2015 to 2016. This doesn’t mean drivers and homeowners should lower their guard in 2017 because this holiday period sees a lot of activity. Over the years, our insured customers have reported everything from ‘pumpkined’ cars to mummified homes, and these costly pranks can happen to anyone.”
To promote a safe and happy holiday for all, here are some Halloween tips:
- Pick a costume for your child that fits. Select an outfit that doesn’t obscure their vision – watch out for masks that don’t fit properly or limit what they can see such as oncoming traffic, cracks in the sidewalk or children smaller than them.
- Select props that enhance a costume, but won’t hurt someone. Opt for plastic, dull and flexible props to complete an outfit. For example, sharp swords in the wrong hands can spoil a night of collecting candy.
- Make sure your group is seen. Add glow sticks to your group’s outfits and bring a flashlight with you so motorists can see you in the dark when crossing streets and as you walk past driveways.
- Watch where you cross the street. Use crosswalks, traffic signals and street corners when crossing roads. Don’t cross the street between parked cars, as this limits visibility and makes it difficult for motorists to see you. Remember to look left and right to check for cars before stepping off the curb.
- Don’t participate in distracted walking. Put smartphones and other electronic devices away and pay attention to drivers on the road. One social post could ruin your night, so save the photos and updates for when you get home.
- Children should always trick or treat with an adult. Little ones should be supervised by an adult.
- Young adults should discuss and share their route with parents and friends before leaving. If they are old enough to go out trick-or-treating on your own, young adults should talk to their parents and friends about the neighborhood streets they’ll be visiting. And, be advised to stick to the plan and agree on a time to return home.
- Take your time. Adding extra time to your trip is a good idea, especially on Halloween when people are on the streets or heading to events. This will reduce your stress and help you reach your destination on time.
- Watch out for kids and adults in costume. Halloween is a busy night with even more foot-traffic than normal, so watch out for princesses, ghosts and other trick-or-treaters who might not be able to see you. It’s fun to look at all of the costumes, but stay on high alert while behind the wheel.
- Try to limit driving during peak trick-or-treating hours. Peak hours for trick-or-treating are between 5:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. For your own safety and the safety of others, try to leave well before or after this time if you have to drive.
- Be careful when leaving driveways. Look twice, and even a third time, before backing out of a driveway. If possible, reverse your vehicle into your driveway ahead of time so you are looking forward when leaving. Take extra precaution when backing out of driveways – rear-end collisions are one of the most common auto claims. Having someone act as a crossing guard before exiting driveways could prevent an accident.
- Take care of your vehicle. Vandals might look to egg your vehicle or use it for batting practice, so consider where you park. A well-lit area is better if you don’t have space in the garage or your home only has access to street parking. Here’s a full list of tips to keep your vehicle safe.
- Review your auto insurance policy. Talk to your local independent insurance agent to see what your auto policy includes and covers. For example, comprehensive insurance will cover your vehicle if it’s keyed or a rowdy teen throws a pumpkin at it, while liability will only pay to cover damage or injury to someone else that was caused by you.
- Light your walkway. This can reduce the likelihood of vandalism to your home, as well as increase visibility for costumed visitors who may have difficulty viewing the terrain.
- Keep pets indoors. Some dogs and cats can become easily spooked by strangers or kids disguised in costumes and Halloween attire. Keep your four-legged friends inside – or in a separate part of your home if you’re hosting a party – to keep them safe and prevent any situations where a pet might get injured or injure a visitor.
- Install surveillance cameras. Cameras can be installed to areas of the home that are more obstructed or away from the street and may help law enforcement identify perpetrators in the event of vandalism.
- Set up a neighborhood watch. Talk to neighbors and come up with a schedule to watch your block. Assign times and map out potential trouble spots. Invite law enforcement to your meeting to get additional advice.
- Mitigate the chance of a liability claim. Take simple steps to prepare your home for Halloween to minimize the chance that an excited trick-or-treater is injured on your property. Inspect your property for ways costumed visitors could potentially hurt themselves. Remove obstacles that may cause accidents, and be sure to light up the path to your home.
Filing a Claim
- Call the police. Filing a report provides you with an official record of any incident and, hopefully, the police will be able to track down the offender. Don’t attempt to move or clean any of the damaged items until the police arrive to document the scene and retrieve necessary information.
- Take photos of the damage. Photos may act as additional evidence and provide a more permanent record of events.
- Contact your insurer. Report claims to your insurance company right away. Mercury customers can call the company toll-free 24 hours a day, seven days a week to report a claim at (800) 503-3724.