In its basic format, Halloween is a simple and exciting observance for children. They dress up in costumes, visit neighbors and receive bags of free treats for their efforts.

For adults, however, Halloween is at best a nuisance, and at worst their most horrible nightmare. Youngsters, with their attention distracted by either the design of their masks or the thrill of the event, dart out in front of traffic to get to the next doorbell. Maybe they fall and scrape a knee. Maybe they are hit by a vehicle. Occasionally, predators are on the prowl.

Despite the perception that trick-or-treating has become a lost art, a survey by the National Retail Federation this year found that two-thirds of parents plan to let their children exercise this Halloween tradition.

But dangers also loom for adults. That survey found that almost 30 percent of adults plan to throw or attend a Halloween party this year, and alcoholic beverages will be served at many of those. The threat of drunk drivers on Halloween ins no less real on Oct. 31 as it will be on Dec. 31.

Halloween continues to rank as one of top three days of the year for pedestrian injuries and fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And more than half of those accidents involve alcohol use.

One variable in the celebration this year is the one-week delay in the switch back to standard time from daylight-saving time. Instead of “falling back” on the Sunday morning before Halloween, it will happen on the Sunday after Halloween. On the positive side, this will in effect give families an additional hour of daylight between the time Mom and Dad get home from work and dark. But on a negative note, this could mean some children won’t start their outings until an hour later, when it finally does get dark.

The bottom line is that adults who are celebrating with alcoholic beverages should, as always, designate a driver who will not drink. And young children should be accompanied by an adult, and plan to conclude their excursions by 7:30 or 8 p.m. Meanwhile, a host of safe options for observing the evening and having fun exist, including the photo-shot at the Bulletin office from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday.

A measure of caution and planning will take the danger out of Halloween, leaving only the little ghouls and goblins to give us a fright. If children know to stop only at houses of people they know and whose porch lights are on, watch for vehicles and let an adult inspect candy before eating it, Halloween will indeed be happy this year. The tips offered by safety experts and law enforcement personnel are sensible and logical. And they don’t ruin the fun; rather, they help make certain Halloween is fun.

Brownwood Bulletin