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Have a Cell-Free Halloween

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Dr. Cara Natterson: There are lots of things we do to maximize our children's safety on Halloween. We make sure that their Halloween costumes are free of adornments that can double as choking risks, long ties that can cause strangulation and dangling hemlines that equal tripping hazards. We have learned to look for toxic chemicals in our face paints and to make sure that masks fit properly so that they don't obstruct vision.

mom on cell phone while kids trick or treat

We weed through our kids' loot, making sure that every piece of candy is virginal -- perfectly wrapped and unadulterated. We hastily remove anything homemade or even potentially homemade, anything punctured, ripped, crinkled or crumbling.

Some parents stick reflective tape to the outside of their kids' costumes, so drivers can see them more easily. Others arm their children with glow sticks or flashlights. We hold hands crossing the street, and we insist on using the crosswalk.

But if you think you do everything you can to maximize your child's safety, you are wrong. Because you haven't put down your cell phone yet.

Every year in this country, there are 330,000 car accidents --and 2,600 fatalities -- thatare a direct result of using cell phones while driving. Talking on the phone while driving is a distraction. Dialing, textingandchecking e-mail all take your eyes off the road. Even if it is just for an instant, that instant can have major consequences.

On Halloween, you know there will be scores of kids walking through neighborhoods, starting before dusk and extending into the night. On Halloween, even more than on any other night, you know you should stay off your phone while you drive. Kids are four times more likely to be hit by a car on Halloween, even though everyone who is on the road anticipates that there will be little guys crossing driveways or dodging in and out from between parked cars. So put down your cell phone.

And parents who won't be behind the wheel, but instead will be walking with their kids door-to-door for the ritual candy collection, will need to put down their phones, too. Your job is to watch your children, hold their hands, look both ways before crossing the street and all of that other business. You cannot do that while e-mailing or texting, no matter how good you think you are at multitasking.

Our generation of parents is exceptionally good at worrying about every little danger. We can debate the pros and cons of vaccines (or soy or BPA in plastics) until the cows come home. We are less good at taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture.

This Halloween, get better at it. Go back in time 15 or 20 years, to the period when we didn't have technical distractions in the palms of our hands. For one day -- for the one day that kids are out in the streets in droves -- remember that you don't need to be talking or texting at every possible moment.

And then maybe try it again on November 1.

next: Halloween Safety for Kids and Grownups
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