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Keeping It Safe, Keeping It Real


Proms and graduations are rites of passage celebrated every spring. They are meant to be and for many people are joyous occasions. But for some, these events will bring tragedy since the temptation to drink and drive rises dramatically during the second quarter of the year. Overall, teen drunk driving has decreased by 54% since 1991 according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, and approximately one-third of those crashes are alcohol-related, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD.

What makes prom and graduation season so dangerous? In a 2014 AAA survey of teens 16-19 years old, 41% of teens responded that they or their friends were likely to use drugs or alcohol on prom night. In the same survey, 84% of teens stated their friends were more likely to get behind the wheel after drinking than call home for a ride; another 22% stated that they would ride in a car with someone who was impaired instead of calling their parents for a ride.


The preference of an overwhelming number of teens to drive impaired or drive with someone who is impaired rather than call their parents says a number of things. It says first and foremost that teens grossly underestimate the risks associated with driving under the influence; if they really understood the danger of getting behind a wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or of being a passenger in a vehicle where the driver is impaired, they would not do either. It also says that while parents are getting the message through of no underage drinking and drug use, they are not getting the message through of the deadly consequences of driving while impaired.

One way to encourage teens to call home rather than to drive while impaired is to offer "teen immunity". Parents should tell their teens--year round and not just during prom and graduation season--that if they call home for a ride rather than driving after drinking or getting in the car with someone who is impaired, they will not be in trouble. They will have immunity. However, if they drive while impaired or with someone who is, then the full extent of parental wrath--and the law--will fall on them.


Another way to encourage teens to refrain from driving while impaired is to make the consequences of that terrible decision clearly understood. Some high schools enact a simulation of a drunk driving accident, using students in the roles of both the drunk driver and the injured/killed teens. The students are placed in crashed cars, and community first responders arrive on the scene. One teen is already "dead," another is life-flighted to a local hospital where he "dies" the next day, and two others have "serious injuries but live." The teens that were driving drunk and caused the accident are arrested by local police and taken away in handcuffs--reminding the kids at the simulation that there are criminal consequences for driving drunk. The day after the simulation is a follow up assembly in which the parent of a teen killed in a drunk driving accident talks to the high school kids, telling them about the night her son was killed.

The simulation and follow up assembly are held shortly before prom and graduation.


To demonstrate just how tragically often people are killed in drunk driving accidents, some schools recruit students to put on "dead tee shirts" at fifteen minute intervals. Once their tee shirt is on, they remain silent for the remainder of the day, and some students paint their faces white, to look like walking ghosts. The fifteen minute intervals of kids "dying" is to symbolize that every fifteen minutes someone dies in a drunk driving accident in the U.S.


If you have been injured in an accident involving an impaired driver, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free evaluation of your legal rights.

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