You remember it like it was yesterday. Picking out a dress or a tuxedo, maybe having it altered (at the last minute), getting ready and meeting your date. It felt like the most important night of your life, and, at the time, maybe it was. It’s tough to imagine that, for many teens, prom night is their last night alive.
Drinking on prom night has become something of a normalized right of passage. According to MADD, over 60% of parents believe their kids will drink on prom night (even though 96% of parents don’t approve). This means that some parents believe that teens drinking on prom night isn’t a big deal. But it’s a very big deal, especially if a teen who’s been drinking gets behind the wheel.
Safety precautions for parents
One of the major problems with teens and alcohol on prom night is their inexperience—with driving, with alcohol and with designating a driver. Some reasonable safety precautions parents can take on prom night include:
- Ridesharing. We live in an age of readily-available ridesharing almost everywhere in America, be that Uber, Lyft or a local taxi company. Taking the time to arrange hired transportation for your child and their friends could save lives.
- Drive them yourself. This is of course the less popular option, but it’s safer than letting the kids drive themselves.
- About that limo. If the kids are taking a limo—which is a popular prom-night experience—speak with the limo company and driver beforehand. What is their alcohol and drug policy? How reliable is the driver? These questions might seem nagging, but there are lives at stake.
- Establish rules. You’re the parent; set the rules. Like the ridesharing apps, we’re fortunate to live in a time of widespread cell phones. If your child is driving him or herself, make sure they’re paying attention to the road. Set rules that they answer texts throughout the night. You need to know where—and, more importantly, how—they are at all times. This is not asking too much.
- Be stubborn. You need to know their post-prom plans. “Driving around” is not a plan; that’s exactly what you don’t want them to do.
- Be wary of other parents. Whether well-intentioned or not, some parents throw prom after-parties at their own home. This could be for them to monitor the kids and measure their alcohol intake in a controlled environment. But if things escalate, or if an impaired teen gets behind the wheel, that environment quickly loses control. Not to mention our nation’s zero tolerance law, which prohibits anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol.
Aside from sitting down and talking over safety precautions with your kids on prom night, it’s important that you set an example.
And for the kids
Kids will be kids. They can misbehave, act irrationally with disregard for their own safety. But, remember: educated kids will be educated kids too. If your kids (and their friends) are aware of the safety hazards they face on prom night, and the measures they can take to limit those hazards, it could save their lives. Here are a few examples of safe behaviors:
- Drive sober. This is imperative. If they’re going to drink, they must have a sober driver. Period.
- Stay alert. Prom runs late, and after-parties can run all night. Instruct your kids to put their phones away while they’re driving, and not to drive if they’re too tired.
- Distance doesn’t matter. Some kids might justify prom-night drinking if they don’t have far to drive. Distance doesn’t care if you’re driving impaired.
- Seatbelts, seatbelts, seatbelts. This might seem like a no-brainer, but teen seatbelt-related fatalities happen. A lot. In 2016, of the 818 teen drivers and 569 teen passengers who died, more than half weren’t buckled up.
- Slow down. Speed also plays a huge factor in teen-driver fatalities.
Bottom line: Pay attention, stay safe and sober, and get home alive.
As for the parents, if your child attends a party where alcohol is served under the supervision of other parents—especially if this resulted in injuries—it is in your legal right to seek action. Part of setting a responsible example for teens is establishing what is legal and what isn’t.