Officials urge safety, caution on Saturday

COVINGTON - Local law enforcement and fire departments are urging residents to take precautions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe on Halloween.

"We want to make sure everyone has a safe Halloween. Young children should be accompanied by a parent and motorists should use caution in case children run out in the street," said Covington Police Department spokesman Lt. Wendell Wagstaff, adding that there will be increased patrol in high traffic areas.

Wagstaff urged parents to make sure their children have on light-colored or reflective clothing so they can be easily spotted by drivers.

"We encourage people to get out early, before dark and would also encourage parents to look at every treat their child is getting to make sure it is safe," he said.

Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown said his deputies will be out in force that night, especially between the hours of 6 and 10 p.m.

"It is our goal that all citizens enjoy a safe, fun and festive Halloween," he said. "Please use caution, be aware of your surroundings and know the whereabouts of your children at all times."

Brown reiterated that parents should inspect the treats given to their children.

"Remember that there are tricksters among us," he said.

He asked that anyone who receives any suspicious item or who sees suspicious or unusual activities should report the matter to the NCSO immediately.

Once a holiday primarily for children, more and more adults are getting into the act, prompting the Governor's Office on Highway Safety to add Halloween to their list of high-risk traffic days.

"Crash stats from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration consistently show Halloween is a particularly deadly night due to drunk drivers. Last year, a frightening 58 percent of all highway fatalities across the country involved a driver with a Blood Alcohol Concentration of .08 or higher. That's the legal limit in every state, so no matter where you drive this Halloween, if you're 'Over the Limit, you'll be Under Arrest.'" warned spokesman Jim Shuler in a printed press release.

GOHS crash stats show seven people were killed in Georgia and 15 others suffered serious injuries on Halloween day in 2007; three people died in Halloween crashes and 10 were seriously injured in 2006; and in 2005, five people died and 22 were seriously injured in 1,005 Georgia Halloween weekend crashes.

"Don't allow your high-risk driving decisions to create a nightmare for some innocent victim," said GOHS Director Bob Dallas. "Buckle up. Slow down. Don't drink and drive. Highway safety officers throughout the metro area will be out in force, sending drunk drivers straight to jail."

Further, Dallas urged drivers out on Halloween night to be extra alert when pulling in and out of driveways and to drive below the posted speed limits.

Also, the National Fire Protection Association urged residents to be aware that candles are a primary cause of house fires and fire-related injuries. They issued a few common-sense safety tips for keeping trick-or-treaters safe.

· Buy only costumes, wigs and decorations labeled flame-resistant or flame-retardant. Make sure vision is not obscured by a mask.

· Provide trick-or-treaters with flashlights to carry.

· Dried flowers, cornstalks and crepe paper are highly flammable. Keep these and other decorations well away from open flames and heat sources, including light bulbs and heaters.

· It is safest to use a flashlight or battery-operated candles in jack-o'-lanterns. Extreme caution should be used if a real candle is used and children should be watched at all times when a candle is lit. Use fireplace matches or a long utility lighter when lighting the jack-o'-lantern and do not place it where trick-or-treaters can be burned.

· Use flashlights as alternatives to candles or torch lights when decorating walkways and yards. They are much safer for trick-or-treaters who may brush their costumes up against them.

· Be sure your children know how to stop, drop and roll if their clothing catches on fire.

Barbara Knowles can be reached at barbara.knowles@newtoncitizen.com