Keeping Teens Safe During Prom and Graduation
Sobering Statistics Help Keep Kids Safe on Prom Night and When Celebrating Graduation
(Tinley Park, IL; April 2018) – High school prom is a milestone celebrated by nearly every American teenager. It’s also the night when many teens are permitted to borrow the family car and drive unchaperoned for the first time and the night that many take their first drink.
Leaders Opposed to Underage Drinking (L.O.U.D.), a collaboration of community and educational leaders in Tinley Park, a south suburb of Chicago, are hoping to keep their kids safe this prom and graduation season by educating teens and their parents. L.O.U.D. is the brainchild of Bremen Youth Services, a social services agency that serves young people and families in the Bremen Township area.
“Know the NO” is a campaign aimed at students and parents in the Tinley Park community to reduce the incidence of underage drinking. Saying “no” to alcohol is the norm in these communities. Their hope is to dispel two myths: first, that most teens use alcohol and second, parents often facilitate it because they acquiesce to their teens’ claim that “everyone is doing it.” While the program is directed at the Tinley Park area, their message resonates nationwide.
“Bad things can happen to good kids because of poor choices or inadequate planning from adults,” says Donald J. Sebek, Executive Director of Bremen Youth Services. “A simple internet search for prom night tragedies tells the sad story, one that is easily preventable.”
Every day, nearly 29 people in the United States die in alcohol-impaired vehicle crashes. That’s one person every 50 minutes (2016 statistics), according to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, says the CDC (Center for Disease Control).
“Teen motor vehicle crashes are preventable,” says Sebek. “Our L.O.U.D. program hopes to educate teens and parents on steps to take to avoid prom night (and every day) drinking tragedies.”
The statistics are sobering:
- Approximately 300 teens have died in alcohol-related traffic accidents during prom weekends over the past several years, according to the NHTSA.
- Statistics show that roughly one-third of alcohol-related teen traffic fatalities occur between April and June – the peak of prom and graduation season.
- A survey of teens aged 16-19, published by AAA in 2014, found that 31% to 41% of teens said that it was likely that they or their friends would use drugs or alcohol on prom night.
- According to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens – roughly 25% of teen crashes involve an underage drinking driver. Every year, approximately 1,415 people under age 21 die from alcohol-related crashes.
- A small amount of alcohol can affect driving ability – 1,764 people were killed in 2014 in alcohol-related crashes where the driver’s blood-alcohol level (BAC) was less than 0.08.
- According to SADD (Students Against Drunk Drivers), more than 85 percent of teens say they or their peers are likely to drive impaired instead of calling their parents because they are afraid of getting in trouble. Just 21 percent of teens report that they have called their parents to pick them up because they or their designated driver was impaired.
- Even though more teens are involved in fatal traffic accidents related to alcohol during prom season, the majority of high school aged students don’t seem to recognize how dangerous it actually is. A Liberty Mutual Survey says that nearly 2,300 juniors and seniors found that just 20 percent believe being on the roads on prom night is dangerous. Six percent of those surveyed admitted to driving under the influence after prom.
- Having just one or two drinks is bad enough, but the majority of teens are downing substantially more on prom night. According to Liberty Mutual, 54 percent of teens who admitted to drinking during or after the prom said they consumed four or more alcoholic beverages.
- Parents today face some unique challenges when it comes to how they raise their kids, and tackling the alcohol issue is one of them. A survey conducted by PEMCO Insurance found that while 51 percent of adults said parents should forbid their child from going to an after-prom party where alcohol would be present, another 20 percent gave it the thumbs up if the event would be chaperoned.
- Once kids hit the teenage years, they seem to tune out just about everything their parents say, but moms and dads can get through with a little persistence. According to another survey from MADD, teens whose parents view underage drinking as unacceptable are 80 percent less likely to drink compared to their peers whose parents are more lenient about it.
“The L.O.U.D. message for parents is ‘Empower Your Child: Thank You for Not Providing,’” says Sebek.
Among the tips offered to parents are:
- Show you disapprove of underage drinking—send a clear and strong message
- Show you care about your child’s happiness and well-being—the conversation will go much better if you’re working with, not against, your child
- Show you’re a good source of information about alcohol—you want to establish yourself as a trustworthy source of information, you don’t want your child to learn about alcohol from their friends, the internet or the media
- Show you’re paying attention and you’ll notice if your child drinks—there are many ways to do this without prying.
- Build your child’s skills and strategies for avoiding underage drinking—to prepare your child to resist peer pressure, you’ll need to build skills and practice them.
“We see the value in being up front with teens about alcohol use, and discussing it openly,” said Sebek. “Most teens will listen to grownups’ warnings about underage drinking, but they also will pay attention to what their peers say. That’s why the “Know the No” program is about getting correct, no-nonsense information into the hands of the students.”
Other tips for Prom night:
- Drive on well-lit roads.
- Make sure that your date and/or driver does not drink any alcohol.
- Alcohol impairs one’s vision and slows reaction time, clear thinking, judgment, and coordination.
- During weekends, there tend to be more drunk drivers on roads. Always watch for oncoming drivers, as impaired drivers tend to drive toward lights.
- Before you leave home, have directions to where you are going on prom night.
- After your red light turns green, wait a second before pulling into the intersection to ensure that other drivers are not running the light.
- Keep the radio volume turned low enough so the driver can concentrate on getting you to and from the fun.
- Plan ahead—make sure you have a safe plan for prom night.
- Discuss your plans with your friends, remind each other about responsible decision-making and confronting peer pressure.
- Remember to charge your cell phone and have it with you.
- Know where you are and where your plans will take you next; keep your parents and friends informed.
- Remember to contact your parents if your plans change.
- Do not allow anyone in your car or limo that has alcohol, drugs or weapons. It is dangerous and everyone in the car is at risk of being arrested.
For more information about the “Know the NO” program, please visit the program website at www.newsline360.com/LOUD. Information about Bremen Youth Services can be found at www.bremenyouthservices.org.
L.O.U.D. (Leaders Opposed to Underage Drinking) is dedicated to creating healthy communities and schools that encourage alcohol free youth by implementing evidence-based strategies to fight the contributing factors of underage drinking. Although the two part campaign targets parents and youth separately, its goal is to make both groups aware of the fact underage sobriety is normal. The parent campaign found that 62% of teens from Tinley/Orland Park report their parents’ will not provide them alcohol while the youth campaign found that 7/10 students from Tinley/Orland Park say no to alcohol.
For more information about L.O.U.D. Coalition, call 708-687-9200 or email email@example.com.
About Bremen Youth Services
Bremen Youth Services (BYS) is a not-for-profit community mental health agency committed to enhancing the quality of life for individuals and families by providing quality mental health, substance abuse and prevention services. Services are provided by licensed counselors, social workers, and graduate level interns, mental health professionals and certified drug and alcohol counselors. The agency is funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services.
Bremen Youth Services participates in coalitions to network, collaborate, and maximize the services available to the Bremen Township community. Visit www.bremenyouthservices.org for more information on Bremen Youth Services’ services and staff. For questions or personal assistance, please contact Bremen Youth Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or 708-687-9200. The agency’s service hours are Monday – Thursday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on and Saturdays by appointment only.