Going to prom is an event in young peoples' lives which is thought about and planned for years in advance. Children who grow up with stories such as Cinderella, think hopefully of prom as a fun-filled fantasy "night to remember." However, the "night to remember" can quickly and easily turn into a "night of tragedy."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that 53 percent of students going to proms drink more than four drinks on prom night. They further report that three quarters of 12th grade students, more than two thirds of 10th grade students and about two in five 8th grade students have consumed alcohol in their lifetime. Only 31 percent of parents believe that their children drink between the ages of 15 and 16; however, 60 percent of teens 15 and 16 do drink. AAA (American Automobile Association) conducted a survey of teens. The results were than teens felt it was likely that they or their friends would be under the influence of drugs or alcohol sometime during prom or the graduation season.
In Countdown to Prom which aired in May 2011, the NBC Today Show said that 70 percent of juniors and seniors expected their friends to drink and drive on prom night. An example of the consequences of this behavior is introduced in Countdown to Prom. Jonathan Caruso, a teen who fell asleep at the wheel after consuming 10 beers at a party following prom. Jonathan struck and killed a woman and seriously injured her adult daughter who were out walking at the time. For Jonathan, his family, and the family of the killed and injured women, prom night was tragically a "night to remember."
The AAA surveyed almost 1,500 teens who were 16 to 19 years old. Half of these teens surveyed said they were uncomfortable talking to their parents about how to get home safely if they, or their rides, have been drinking or doing drugs. One out of five of these teens admitted that they had ridden with one of their friends who was driving under the influence.
"Since April is Alcohol Awareness Month and many proms are held in early May, we at Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A., feel it is important to 'get the message out' that drinking and driving do not mix and frequently cause negative and disastrous 'nights to remember'. We are providing some further information and tips to help prom-goers and their families have wonderful 'nights to remember'," said Hurt By Drunk Driver Attorney, Randall Spivey.
Talk About Driving Under the Influence With Your Teens
FamilyEducation.com recommends that "talking to kids about drinking on prom night should be part of an ongoing conversation with them about the hazards of drinking." They further say that many adults turn their back on underage drinking especially around special events like the prom. Parents mistakenly feel that as long as their teen is not driving, they do not have to worry. However, the 2013 JAMA Pediatrics study found that one in five high school seniors report binge drinking (five or more drinks in a row). The same survey said that one in ten teenagers reported extreme binge drinking which is drinking ten or more drinks per session. FamilyEducation.com recommends the following words to use in discussing the issue of drinking and driving:
- What are your plans for prom night? If their school has pre- and post-prom parties, encourage them to attend.
- Tell kids you know prom night is often a big drinking night and that you are concerned for their safety. Talk with them about the consequences - diminished judgment, becoming more uninhibited, nausea, vomiting, hangovers, irritability and sleep disturbances.
- Drinking too much too rapidly can cause alcohol toxicity that leads to loss of consciousness and even death. Share specific concerns you have about what might happen that could compromise their safety.
- Kids should never get into vehicles with drivers who have been drinking, even if it's their boyfriends or girlfriends.
- Have a bargain with your teens that they can call home at any time of the day or night to be picked up with no questions asked.
- Brainstorm with the teens about how they can handle situations when around their peers who may be drinking. Do not give in to peer pressure. Kids may say, "I don't like the way alcohol affects me."
- Mention the danger of drinks being spiked.
- Mention that drinking allows one to take risks they might otherwise not take. These risks can put the teen in dangerous situations like date rape.
AAA has a program called AAA PROMise which was established to reduce the number of teens who get into accidents by getting the teens to promise that they will keep prom night, and other such events clean and sober by keeping the lines of communication open to parents in case the teens may slip up.
SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) offers a SADD Prom Tool Kit on its website. This is a very good website from which to access more information on this subject. Of particular interest is Student Success Stories which points out, in students' own words, how prom was a safe and fun experience for them.
Attorney Spivey recommends, "Keep prom night a safe and fun-filled night to remember."