TAMPA - As Melissa Robles and Haley Valeta prepare for Halloween with typical teenage enthusiasm, you'd never guess that last Halloween, they were almost killed.
"You just feel like I really am lucky," Robles said.
"I'm so thankful that it all worked out okay,” Valeta said.
The girls and about a dozen other ninth graders were walking along a road on Halloween after dark. They don't remember what happened next, but their friends have told them.
"The car hit me dead on, and then swerved around back to Melissa," a friend said.
"I flew out of my shoes. Like, my shoes were planted right where I got hit," Robles said.
Their Halloween scare included head injuries, crushed legs, multiple surgeries, and titanium rods.
Of all of the Halloween hazards, the most dangerous was visibility, a big issue.
"Keep them out of the street. If they can stick to the sidewalks and stay away from cars period, that's a good thing to do," said Deputy Chris Depolis of Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office.
Deaths of kids eight to fourteen are on the rise. That's the age when kids start to venture out on their own, and that can lead to other dangers. Sexual predators might have easier access kids on Halloween.
"They shouldn't do it alone. They should travel in a group. Travel with a group of friends because there's safety in numbers,” Deputy Depolis said.
Check the FDLE website to know areas and houses to avoid. Know where your older children are going. What they're wearing and set parameters.
"Say only stay in the neighborhood. Or only stay on this street. And you're gonna be back by this time. And give them a cell phone so you can get a hold of them if you need to, or they can get a hold of you or call 9-1-1 if they need to," Deputy Delopis said.
The bottom line: make yourself visible, be aware of your surroundings and don't go it alone.
Think about what you're doing, and, just be safe out there," he said.
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