One of the delights of spring in America’s high schools is the prom – a chance for teens to dress up and celebrate the end of a tough school year – usually their last high school year – with a formal event.
Most parents, though, are a bit nervous on prom night if driving is involved, and they’re right to do so. Prom season drunk driving is a real problem: DUI arrests, collisions and deaths rise when teens take to the road for proms, for a few reasons.
- Teenagers. Young people are the most likely to drive drunk. Teenagers are not allowed to drink in the US, and most states have a zero-tolerance law for underage drunk drivers: anyone under 21 operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .02 or higher can be cited for DUI.Nevertheless, teens do drink, and drive drunk, and prom nights are perhaps the night it’s most likely to happen. Teens tend to be impulsive and have poor judgement, and tend to think of themselves as invincible. Little wonder drunk driving isn’t a big enough deal to them.
- Alcohol. When teens do drink, they tend to drink too much. Because they’re inexperienced, they don’t even have a good idea of how impaired they are, and how compromised their driving ability is.
- Fatigue. Prom night sometimes goes into the wee hours, so teens driving home are tired even if they’re not under the influence. Once again, their inexperience combined with the belief that they can’t be hurt works against them.
- Distraction. Prom means groups of people stuffed into cars – talking, laughing, goofing around, and generally not paying attention to the road.
What Parents Should Do
If you have a teen with a prom coming up, the time to talk about it is before the day. Lay down some rules and make sure your teen understands how serious you are about them.
- No drinking. Put this in writing. Let your teens know you’ll be checking when they get home. Expect some resistance to this, but be firm.
- Wear seat belts. This sounds like a no-brainer, but a lot of teens skip this when they’re riding with peers, and it’s very dangerous.
- Make sure your teen has money for alternate transportation if the designated driver gets drunk.
- Arrange a secret text code if your teen wants to beg out of a dicey situation. Be available to pick them up if they signal you.
It’s curious that the event that’s so eagerly awaited by teens can be so dreaded by parents. We wish you a happy and safe prom season.