For teens, prom should be a happy and exciting night – a time to get dressed up, enjoy a good meal, dance and make memories with friends. For parents, it should be a chance to take photos, wave goodbye and – above all – not worry for the rest of the night about their teen being involved in a car accident.
Unfortunately, a high school prom presents one of those times when teens may face peer pressure and engage in dangerous behavior, including drinking and driving. Too often, teens faced with the choice between driving safely or driving recklessly make the wrong decision.
For instance, according to a study of fatal teen car accidents in nine states that was recently published in the journal, Injury Epidemiology, found that roughly half of the young drivers were under the influence of either alcohol or marijuana at the time of the crash.
The Columbia University researchers analyzed a total of 7,191 deadly crashes involving drivers between the ages of 16 and 25. Among the young drivers killed, the researchers found:
- 8 percent were under the influence of alcohol
- 9 percent used only marijuana
- 6 percent used both substances.
Nobody wants their child to become a statistic. That is why we have compiled a few ways parents can help their teens make good choices and keep prom night as safe as possible.
1. Talk with your teen about risks of drinking and driving.
As Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) points out, research shows there are clear, positive benefits to having “good communication” between parents and teens about risky behaviors. Just be open and honest with your teen and ask for the same in return.
You can focus on the fact that drinking and driving is not only illegal for teens. It can also lead to accidents that can harm your teen, his or her passengers and others on the road. Make sure your teen understands that it is never safe to drink and drive or to get into a car with a drinking driver.
2. Plan ahead.
There is no reason to wait until the last minute to find out your teen’s prom plans. Instead, discuss the details of your teen’s prom night in advance, including:
- Who will be with your teen before and after the prom
- Who will be driving (a friend, limo, taxi?)
- Where will your teen be before and after the prom, and will adults be supervising
- When will your teen be expected to come home.
3. Have an emergency contact plan.
Make sure your teen carries a charged cell phone. Tell your teen that you can be called at any time over the course of the night. It may be a good idea to get contact information for your teen’s friends (and their parents) as well.
4. Host your own – alcohol-free – prom night party.
You may want to consider hosting your own pre- or post-prom party, where you can be sure that your child and his or her friends will not be exposed to alcohol or drugs. It may give you more peace of mind, knowing your teen has a safe place to hang out. If you do host a party, maintain reasonable supervision of the group.
5. Encourage seat belt use.
On a final note, remind your teen to wear a seat belt at all times when getting around on prom night. According to the NHTSA, the majority of people between ages 16 to 20 who are involved in deadly car crashes are not buckled.
Additionally, you should talk with your teen about avoiding “crowding” into a car. When multiple teens are in a vehicle, it limits how many are buckled up and causes driver distractions.
Hopefully, these tips will help to get you started on working with your teen to plan and enjoy a safe and happy prom night.