Every year 4,500 teens are counted among the fatalities reported to the CDC as a result of drinking and driving.

With prom season switching into high gear, creating a clear prom schedule and safety plan may not be as interesting as coordinating a dress with a dinner date, but having one is a must before the first corsage is pinned.

“We know that this type of night is extremely risky but we want to increase the protective factors and get the message out all year long,” said Elaine Lawton of the Baltimore County Substance Abuse Program.

To counter dangerous after-prom behaviors, schools across the nation have begun to improve ways to get students home safely or keep them longer to avoid more fatalities. After-prom planners say that in order to actually first attract students, and secondly, keep them active during the most important hours immediately after prom, new approaches are needed.

“If you have a party where all they do is go in and bowl or watch a movie and leave- that is not enough to keep the kids there during nighttime hours when you want them off the roads,” said Lawton. To counter the numerous unsupervised hotel and club parties that will undoubtedly take place, the Bureau of Behavioral Health provides 24 Baltimore County Public Schools with grants in the amount $1,500 to help with after-prom activities that actually draw students in.

Raffles and prize drawings where winners have to claim their goods in person are held to help keep students throughout the whole night. Music, dancing, rented arcade games, and free food are all incentives for students to stay at after-prom events held by schools and youth programs. Parents, schools, and community leaders have now even integrated the fight for safe proms with the most sought after mode of transportation: limousines.

“There has been some good training in terms of limousine companies that help train limo drivers and after prom activities are a good way to keep kids safe,” said Cash.

With drivers ages 16 to 19 four times more likely to get into car accidents than those more tenured behind the wheel, limiting distractions for teen drivers is most important. Some parents set regulations on how many people can be in the car with their teen driver, and others go as far as setting up cameras on dashboards to limit reckless behavior.

“We know that parent’s have the greatest influence on the decisions their teens will be making. Parent involvement is key,” said Caroline Cash, executive director of Maryland’s Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MAAD). Parents are encouraged to know the schedule of events for their teen on prom night and have the contact information for the parents of any friends a teen plans to attend with. Lawton says speaking with teens on a regular basis, setting and keeping clear rules and consequences are all a part of having positive outcomes on prom night.

“Parents need to give clear messages in the home. There are so many mixed messages out there. The media makes alcohol seem so acceptable. Teen shows and magazines that we know are getting into the hands of young people are connecting alcohol to sexiness and athletic prowess,” said Lawton. “If teens have to stop and think before partaking in illegal activity, ‘Mom and Dad are going to be up waiting for me,’ they know they will be observing behavior and be able to smell breath so that is also a deterrent to help them make better decisions.”

 

Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer