It’s prom season.
High school students are preparing for their upcoming prom. Finding the perfect dress, the right date, and the best after party is all part of their planning. Students may have the best intentions for a memorable evening, but, for some, the night could end in tragedy.
While spring time is usually a season designated for celebrations, it is also the time of year when the highest level of teen-related auto accidents occur. Students can be so focused on having a good time that they may let their otherwise good judgment take a back seat, especially when it comes to driving.
Where does a parent begin?
Keeping kids safe on prom night starts at home with open conversations between parents and teens.
Sgt. Perrine of the Indiana State Police, a parent of a high school senior who plans to attend the prom this year, says it’s important to be proactive in these situations.
“To begin with it is important for the parents to have an itinerary of the night’s events,” he advises. “In my household we understand that plans sometimes change. However when they do change, we want to know about it either through a quick call or even a text.”
Safety strategies and driving alternatives
Having a plan is key to creating a safe evening. Here are five tips for parents to help students have a fun evening, while still arriving home unharmed.
1 Host an alcohol-free after party: this option may seem unconventional in many households, but it’s an option for those interested in keeping their kids off the roads after prom and to know for sure their kids are staying sober. Jamie L. Vickery, Indiana SADD State Coordinator, has provided this resource for parents during prom season, "Tips for Keeping Prom Night Safe," in which one of the talking points is hosting an after-party for teens with a group of other parents.
2 Rent a car service: car services can include a limousine, a classic car, or even driving services such as cabs, Uber or Lyft. Whatever it takes to keep your teen from getting behind the wheel. According to the MADD website, "Teen alcohol use kills 4,700 people each year - that’s more than all illegal drugs combined."
3 Determine rules, set boundaries: do not allow your teenager to attend parties where alcohol is being served, and know who they are going to be with at all times. Sgt. Perrine says, “It is shocking to know how many parents are unaware of their children’s whereabouts. It’s also important to know whom they are traveling with and in which vehicles. Each year crashes and deaths occur across the country due to drinking and driving after the prom.”
4 Have a “no questions asked” policy: if your teen finds their self in trouble, they need to feel comfortable calling you. If you provide them with a, “no questions asked” policy and they can call you under any circumstance, even if they have a friend in trouble, they are less likely to make a bad decision.
5 Stay connected: make sure you have a solid communication plan for prom night. That way, the temptation to get behind the wheel after drinking or riding as a passenger with someone who is intoxicated is alleviated. Instead, they can call you or a driving service for a ride. They can also text you throughout the night to check in as well if other emergencies come up.
The importance of parent involvement
While open conversation is an essential part in keeping teenagers safe, parental involvement goes beyond that.
“We have been fortunate with lower accident numbers in Indiana due to public awareness. However, if an after-prom event is on the itinerary, then it is important to know that proper chaperoning will exist. It’s not usually at the prom itself when our children could make unsafe choices; it is when they leave the adult supervision," Sgt. Perrine said.
Legal and liability issues
Some parents think hosting a party and serving alcohol is a safe alternative on special occasions. Again, parents may have good intentions but the outcome can be disastrous and have a long-term negative result for the teens and even the parents.
Serving alcohol to minors is against the law in Indiana for anyone (including parents) and hosts could be held liable if an auto accident occurs as the result of drunk driving if the driver was underage and a host served them. For this reason, under no circumstance can any alcohol be served to minors during any prom after party, no matter who hosts the event.