Teen Safe Driving – Prom and Graduation

Prom 315

High school students across America look forward to spring. The end of the school year is quickly approaching and many of them will be attending their school’s prom and graduation ceremonies. While this is exciting for teens, it can be a very scary time for parents, who are worried about their teen’s safety.

Often, parents’ biggest concern is that their teens arrive home safely from wherever they’ve been. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 5,202 teens are injured and 48 are killed in automobile crashes during a typical prom weekend, so it’s no surprise parents become nervous about safe driving during these months.

There are many reasons why the risk of teens being involved in automobile accidents during this time is increased. One is the additional peer pressure associated with the events themselves. In a 2005 survey conducted by Chrysler Group and MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), more than half of the teen respondents reported feeling pressure to drive carelessly during prom and graduation night activities.

Another explanation is the presence of alcohol and the pressure on teens to consume it. In the same 2005 study, 74 percent of the teens reported feeling pressure to drink during activities surrounding prom and graduation, while 44 percent reported pressure either to drive after consuming alcohol or to ride in a car with someone who had been drinking alcohol on prom and/or graduation night.

An increase in distractions is third cause for the increase in the number of teen auto fatalities that occur between the middle of April and the middle of June. Accidents can occur any time students are distracted, and 80 percent of car crashes are related to driver inattention. Teens are more likely to carpool or ride with friends on prom and/or graduation night, and the likelihood a teenage driver will be distracted increases with each additional passenger in the car.

There are numerous ways parents can better prepare themselves for this time of year and ensure their teen is arriving safely at and home from prom and graduation. Here are some important tips about safe driving parents should consider as these weekends approach:

Hire a chauffeur or rent a limo
Consider hiring a driver or renting a limo for your teen and his or her date, or the large group of friends. An adult has more experience behind the wheel and more experience driving at night. You can instruct the driver to only take your teen to designated locations you have approved. Make sure the driver has your phone number and ask that he or she call you if an incident occurs.

Limit the number of passengers
If your teen is driving, or riding with a date, limit the number of passengers allowed in the car. This will reduce the number of distractions on the driver, as well as potential peer pressure from other teens. Remind your teen of the dangers of being distracted and how important it is for the driver to concentrate and remain focused.

Encourage seatbelt use
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 70 percent of teens killed in auto accidents during prom weekends were not wearing seat belts. Share this statistic with your teen and encourage her or him to wear a seatbelt.

Know your teen’s plans
Make sure you know where your teen will be and when. Is he or she going to dinner before the prom and, if so, what restaurant? The majority of teen deaths on prom night occur in a car driven by another teen, so it’s important that you know who is driving and whether or not that person is a safe driver who is committed to being sober. Where is the prom being held? Contact the school and find out what teachers and school officials will be in attendance; also, obtain a phone number for the location of the prom or a teacher who will be present. Make sure you know where your teen will be after the prom and what time he or she will be arriving there.

Keep contact
If your teen has a cell phone, make sure it is charged. Ask that he or she call to check in with you at designated times throughout the night … and be sure to be available for the call. Make sure your teen knows you are only a phone call away and that you will pick him or her up if the need arises — no matter how late it is. If your teen gets into a dangerous situation or one that makes him or her feel uncomfortable, be sure there is a designated individual your teen can call for help or for a safe ride home.

Know your teen’s date, prom group and friends’ parents
Ask for the cell phone number of your teen’s date and/or some phone numbers for other people in the prom group. If your teen plans on being at a friend’s house either before or after the prom, know where he or she will be. Find out if the event will be supervised by another parent or responsible adult. In 2001, more than half of youths under the age of 21 who were killed in alcohol-related fatalities died during prom and graduation season (mid-April to mid-June). Be sure to speak with the supervising adult prior to the event and ask if alcohol will be available.

Talk with your teen
Instead of talking to your teen, talk with your teen. Tell him or her you know it is an important night and you want it to be fun, but you also want to make sure it will be a safe night. Reason with your teen and work together to set clear rules you both understand and agree to. Place emphasis on good decision-making; showing you trust your teen’s judgment makes him or her more likely to exhibit responsible behavior.

For more information about teen driving, visit www.putonthebrakes.org