Prom season is upon us. Young people will be dressing up, going out, dancing and having a blast. It should be a fun and memorable night for everyone.
It should also be safe. Prom night poses several unique risks for teenagers out on the road, and both prom-goers and parents should be will aware of the dangers that students might encounter during the night, and how to best avoid them.
Studies have indicated that a large number of drunk driving deaths occur between April and June. Most proms take place in April and May, so there is a strong correlation between prom season and drunk-driving fatalities.
Nobody—parent or prom-goer—should have to worry about a terrible or deadly accident on this special night. It is critical that everyone take care to avoid the risks of prom-night fatalities.
Number one rule: Don’t drink and drive
If there is one rule that every prom-goer should follow unquestionably it is this: Do not take a single sip of alcohol.
For starters, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol. And in some cases underage drinking and driving can be punished more severely than an of-age DUI. In the state of Maryland, underage drivers who register even a small amount of alcohol on a blood-alcohol test can have their license taken away for up to three years.
More to the point, it’s dangerous and not worth it. As was explained above, teen drivers can lose their licenses for even a small amount of alcohol consumption. Yet even if they don’t get pulled over, the risk of a car accident is still present. Drunk drivers regularly kill themselves and others while driving intoxicated, and young teenage drivers—who are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol—are at an even greater risk.
There is absolutely no reason to risk your own life and the lives of others for a little buzz. Don’t drink. If someone offers you a beer or a shot at prom or an after-party, tell them no. Your life and your future aren’t worth it.
Parents: Be sure to discuss the dangers of drinking and driving with your children. Let them know: If you catch them with even a drop of alcohol on their breaths, they’ll lose their car for a long time.
Practice safe driving
In addition to refraining from alcohol for the night, there are a number of other steps that prom-goers can take to minimize the risk of accidents on this special night.
For starters: Always wear your seatbelt. It can be tempting to just hop in the car and go, but you are far more likely to be injured in a car accident without a seatbelt than while wearing one.
The Centers for Disease Control say that of the thousands and thousands of passengers who died in car accidents in 2015, upwards of 60% were not wearing their seatbelts. Accident fatalities are strongly correlated with lack of seatbelt use. All it takes is a second. Buckle up; it can save your life.
As well, drivers should refrain from packing their cars too full. Four people to a car—two in the front and two in the back—is a good limit to set. Full cars can get loud, distracting and chaotic. Limiting the number of passengers ensures that the driver will be able to focus on the road.
Parents: Ensure that your prom-goers know the importance of buckling up; also ensure that they are not crowding their vehicles too full when they depart for dinner or the dance.
Tip: Consider hiring a driver for the night
Even though you’re not drinking and driving, there is still good reason to hire a car service or driver for the night.
Calling a cab or hiring a limousine can take the burden off of teen drivers, allowing them to relax and focus on their dates and friends. Both parents and prom-goers can rest easy knowing that a responsible adult is behind the wheel of the vehicle. Having a driver to transport prom-goers to dinner, to the dance and back also means that, in the event that a teen driver does consume alcohol, he or she will absolutely not be behind the wheel.
Parents: Consider paying for a limo rental or car service as a prom-night gift for your teenager. It will be fun for them and you’ll know that your young driver isn’t behind the wheel out past nightfall.
Don’t be out too late
Many prom-goers attend after-parties following the big dance. Some of these are at friends’ houses; others are hosted by schools on school property. Sometimes these events can run well past midnight and into the early morning.
As a rule, it’s safer to be home earlier than later. The later you stay out, the more tired you’ll be; this can pose serious risks to the driver, his or her passengers and anyone else on the road.
The Sleep Foundation states that “sleep deprivation can have similar effects on your body as drinking alcohol.” If a prom-goer stays out until sunrise, he or she may have been up for 24 hours; as the Sleep Foundation points out, that’s the equivalent of a .10 blood alcohol content—well over the legal limit.
Moreover, the later you stay out, the more likely there may be other dangers on the road. Bars and taverns in the state of Maryland close at 2AM; if you’re out past then, there’s a much higher likelihood that you’ll encounter a drunk driver on the road.
It’s better to be safe: Either head home around midnight, or else attend a party at which you can spend the night, like a friend’s house. Of course, there’s no law saying you have to attend a party—but if you do, play it safe.
Parents: Make a plan with your prom-goers: Where they’re going, how long they’ll be there, where the after-party is, who will be there, when they’ll be home. Stick to the plan. Have your teenager check in via text or phone call when they arrive at their destination. Determine when they’re going to be home—or when they’ll be at the place they’re staying for the night.
Prom night should be fun, relaxing, exciting and memorable. It should not be stressful, frightening or tragic. Being safe on this special night will help everyone—prom-goers and parents alike—relax and enjoy the evening.