Prom is one of the most important, but dangerous times of the year for teen drivers. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that one third of all alcohol-related teen driving fatalities occur between April and June — peak prom season.
A recent study by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) also found that 88 percent of teens say that driving under the influence of alcohol is dangerous, while only 68 percent of teens believe driving under the influence of marijuana is dangerous.
Dr. Gene Beresin, senior advisor on adolescent psychiatry with SADD and executive director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Mass General Hospital, offers the following tips for parents on how to keep their teen safe.
- Have a conversation (or more than one): Remember, prom is a very special night for teens. Since the teen brain is driven more by impulse than reason, it’s important to have a candid discussion about the dangers of prom, such as driving under the influence or distracted driving. Have the discussion in advance of prom night and reinforce the message to help keep it top-of-mind for your teen.
- Create a secret code: In case teens find themselves in a vulnerable situation pre- or post-prom, parents and teens can create a secret code together, such as a text code, to alert their parents that they need to be picked up with a “no questions asked” policy.
- Set clear rules: Whether your teen is driving to prom or just a passenger, parents should make it clear that there’s NO driving (or riding in a car with someone who is) under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Liberty Mutual’s Teen Driving Contract acts as a conversation-starter and customized agreement for parents and teens to get on the same page this prom season.
- Passengers on prom night: Driving with two or more passengers greatly increases your risk of getting into an accident due to distracted driving. Speak with teens about how many friends they can drive with on prom night and remind them to always stay focused on the road.