First responders offer Halloween safety tips

rlurye@islandpacket.comOctober 30, 2013 

Sara Ference walks her children Keaton, left, and Mackenizie, walk down Bay Street during Main Street Beaufort, USA's trick-or-treating in 2011.

FILE — Staff photo

At the end of every block, all that stands between children and their next piece of Halloween candy is a dark street crossing.

It's best to attach a glow stick or two to a kid's costume, emergency responders say.

"You can tie them on your wrist; you can place them on their back or waist -- anything just to add a little visibility," said Burton Fire District Deputy Chief Tom Webb.

That's just one of the precautions that officers suggest to maximize safety while trick-or-treating.

Pedestrian accidents don't tend to spike on Oct. 31, but the holiday does pose an additional risk, Beaufort County firefighters and officers said. Neighborhoods that are usually quiet after dark play host to parents and children criss-crossing streets and getting in and out of cars, sometimes without giving much warning to drivers.

Last Halloween, a 13-year-old girl died after she was hit by a car just before 8:30 p.m. in an unlit Bluffton neighborhood. The H.E. McCracken Middle School student, Seaira Bre-An Boulineau, was leaving a vehicle and attempting to cross All Joy Road.

Drugs, alcohol and texting were not factors in the incident, and the 17-year-old driver did not face charges, the S.C. Highway Patrol said.

Over the years, the Burton Fire District has responded to a handful of minor pedestrian accidents on Halloween night, Webb said.

"As the adults, we have to be cognizant of the fact that there are small kids out and about, and they're not as well-disciplined about crossing roads and walking against traffic," Webb said. "And they're excited about Halloween."

Bluffton police Capt. Angela McCall-Tanner urges adults to be "hyper-aware" on Halloween.

"What we hope for is attentiveness and an extra effort by drivers to be aware of their surroundings while such a large number of children are outside and near the roadways," she wrote in an email.

Drivers should reduce speed and roll their windows down to better hear trick-or-treaters.

Officers suggest trick-or-treaters also find ways to stand out in the dark, such as holding flashlights, wearing light-colored costumes or tacking on reflective tape, light-up bike accessories or glow sticks.

For the most part, parents and trick-or-treaters have been playing it safe, according to Randy Hunter, spokesman for the Bluffton Township Fire District. In recent years, the district has seen fewer accidents, he said.

"Usually it's pretty calm," Hunter said. "It is an issue, but more people are educated and know what to do and what to be aware of."

Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.

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