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National Survey Finds More Can Be Done to Ensure Halloween Safety

National Survey Finds More can be Done to Ensure Halloween Safety

More Than 5 million Children May Have Worn Unsafe Halloween Costumes


ALEXANDRIA, VA, Oct. 20—Children from an estimated 25 million households will be allowed to trick-or-treat this Halloween. While trick-or-treating can be a safe activity, adults can do more to provide a secure environment for children as well as protect themselves against potential liability in the event of an accident, a new survey commissioned by the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA) has found.


The survey, which represents the responses of nearly 111 million U.S. households, finds that 33 million respondents, or nearly 30 percent, do not check their outdoor lighting and ensure that their homes’ entry ways are in good condition to avoid trick-or-treaters’ injuries on their properties.


Additionally, the survey also finds that while 40 percent of respondents use artificial lights and candles, rather than candles with live flames, in their Halloween decorations, unfortunately, almost as many, 36 percent or 39 million respondents, say they don’t use artificial lights and candles. Therefore, they could be using potentially unsafe elements in their decorations.


“While it is encouraging that the majority of households normally take safety precautions during Halloween, there are still far too many households that aren’t doing enough,” said Madelyn Flannagan, IIABA vice president of education and research. “Whether they have children that are trick-or-treaters or they are welcoming trick-or-treaters to their door, people should know that they may be responsible for accidents that happen on their property.”


Flannagan adds, “While homeowners’ or renters’ insurance will protect you in the event that trick-or-treaters are injured on your property, homeowners should avoid potential liability claims by making their properties as hazard-free as possible. If you are expecting lots of little visitors during the evening, making sure that the property is well-lit and that the sidewalks are clear of any debris will help protect you from a potential lawsuit.” 


Another aspect of Halloween safety involves knowing where children go to collect their treats. Out of 39 million households with children 17 years old and younger, more than 25 million households allow their children to trick-or-treat while 13 million households do not. Ironically, 65 percent of those households that do allow trick-or-treating say their children have gone trick-or-treating at the homes of people they don’t know.


“While it’s not always possible to know the exact whereabouts of your children, parents should try to know as much as possible about the trick-or-treat route before the start of Halloween activities,” says Flannagan.


For parents who don’t allow their kids to trick-or-treat, the survey found that organized Halloween functions such as parties thrown by friends, churches, etc., are viable options. Survey results show that the nearly 66 percent of households that don’t allow traditional trick-or-treating do allow their children to attend such functions.


When it comes to children’s costumes, survey results show that the vast majority of parents with trick-or-treaters, 3 out of 4, ensure that their children always wear costumes made from flame-resistant material, or from light-colored or reflective material, to make the costumes more visible. However, the survey also finds that children from more than 20 percent of these households— more than 5 million—may have worn potentially unsafe Halloween costumes.


“The good news is that the number of those who wear safe costumes is quite high. The bad news is that there are still too many children wearing potentially unsafe costumes. By not being visible, trick-or-treaters are at risk from drivers who may not be able to see at night when children are making rounds in their neighborhoods,” says Flannagan. “Also, with children possibly being exposed to candles in pumpkins and other decorative fixtures, flammable costumes should be avoided completely.”


When asked about Halloween treats, 9 out of 10 respondents with trick-or-treaters say they inspect all pieces of their children’s candy before they are eaten.


“Unfortunately we live in a society where an innocent-looking piece of candy can cause a great deal of harm to a child,” says Flannagan. “It’s gratifying to know that so many parents take this aspect of Halloween safety so seriously.”


To protect loved ones, property and insurance status, IIABA recommends that households take the following safety precautions this Halloween:


  • Deter property vandalism by keeping outdoor lights on. Remove lawn furniture, or any other obstacles, from the area to avoid accidents or damage.


  • Ensure that your home’s entry is in good condition, free of loose or broken pieces on stairwells and walkways to avoid trick-or-treaters’ injuries on your property.


  • Prevent fires by making sure pumpkins and other decorative items containing candles are placed at a distance where a child’s costume cannot be ignited. Extinguish all candles before going to bed, and use battery operated lights wherever possible.


  • Be careful with costumes! All disguises should be made from flame-resistant material and shouldn’t be too long or contain sharp accessories. Try to avoid masks that may obscure vision; use hypo-allergenic makeup instead. Apply light-reflecting material to costumes as well.


  • Drive sober and slowly, watching for children who may be running or wearing dark costumes in the road. When walking, travel in groups and cross only at corners—never between parked cars.


  • Keep pets inside. Warn your children to stay away from animals as they visit door-to-door.


  • Inspect children’s "treats." Never eat unwrapped items, collect candy only from those you know and ask the local police department if it offers a candy x-ray service.


The survey was conducted for IIABA by Media, Pa.-based International Communications Research. For additional information about various safety precautions please visit


Founded in 1896, IIABA is the nation’s oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing a network of more than 300,000 agents, brokers and their employees nationally. Its members are businesses that offer customers a choice of policies from a variety of insurance companies. Independent agents and brokers offer all lines of insurance—property, casualty, life, and health—as well as employee benefit plans and retirement products. Web address:



FOOTNOTE: To receive a summary of the survey results, please contact Jemarion Jones at (703) 706-5445 or


FOOTNOTE: The survey was conducted by Media, Pa.-based International Communications Research from Oct. 6-10, 2004 to provide national estimates of 110,800,000 U.S. households. The margin of error on the total sample is +/- 3 percentage points. On the smaller sample of households that permit trick-or-treating, the margin of error is +/- 6 percentage points. For more information on ICR, please visit





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