If you are a high school student planning on attending prom, chances are you are excited for what should be a fun-filled night with friends. If you are the parent of a teen who will be attending prom, you may also be excited, but with a dose of apprehension about who your teen will be with and whether they will stay safe.
Concerns about prom night safety are legitimate. According to statistics from Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, Students Against Destructive Driving (SADD) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 90% of teens believe their peers are more likely to drink and drive on prom night than usual, but only 29% of those teens think that driving on prom night is dangerous, and 54% have more than four drinks on prom night.
Too many teens already lose their lives in car accidents. It is the leading cause of death for people ages 12 to 19. With a little planning, it does not have to end that way.
So what can teens do to stay safe on prom night? What can parents do to make sure their teens are safe? Parents and teens need to agree on a plan before prom night arrives.
Planning for a Safe Prom Night
The biggest concern many parents have about their teenager going to prom activities is usually teens drinking and driving on prom night. If you and your teen set expectations beforehand and agree on a plan, there is a much higher chance of your teen having a safe, fun prom night.
1. Share the party plan. Teens need to share the details of their prom night plans with their parents — who they are going with, where they are planning to go after prom, and when they will be home.
2. Discuss driving. Parents and teens need to agree on the driving arrangements, whether it will be a parent or teen driving, or if they will be riding with a friend or in a limo. Whatever your agreement is, make sure everyone is on the same page about the importance of riding with a sober driver.
3. Transportation contingencies. Ideally, be available to pick up your teen if they call. However, if something doesn’t work out as expected with driving arrangements, it is smart for your teenager to have money to take a taxi home or access to a ridesharing service like Uber or Lyft. Make sure they know that they should never get into a vehicle with a driver who has been drinking.
4. Set check-in times. Decide in advance on mandatory times for your teenager to check in with you so you can make sure they are safe.
5. Nix any boozy parties. If your teenager is planning to attend another party before or after prom, find out if alcohol is going to be served to minors. Also, do not host a party yourself and serve alcohol to minors. Besides the fact that it can lead to serious harm or death to teens if they drink and drive, it is a crime that can result in jail time and fines for you.
6. Be available. Try to be available for your teen with no questions asked. Set up a code word they can use to get out of an uncomfortable situation or to avoid driving with a drunk driver. Pick them up with no repercussions. The goal is to get them home safe and sound.
Tips for Planning Safe After-Prom Activities
If you and your teen are committed to an alcohol-free prom night, it is not difficult to find ways to have fun without alcohol. According to MADD, teens are 80% less likely to drink compared to peers if their parents view underage drinking as unacceptable. So parents are in a great position to encourage their teens make smart decisions that are both legal and safe.
Here are some safe after-prom suggestions from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Distractify:
- Ask your local YMCA if you can have an after-prom basketball tournament there.
- Go to an arcade with a group.
- Have a party at a friend’s house and play favorite board games.
- Hang out with friends at a local café.
- Have a second dance party at a friend’s house.
- Host a karaoke party at your house, a friend’s house, or a local Elks or Rotary lodge.
- Hit a late-night diner for fries and a milkshake.
- Have a bonfire, and make sure someone brings s’mores.
- Have a movie marathon. If someone is willing to host, you could get through Star Wars, Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings in … 24 hours?
- Go to a drive-in movie if there is one nearby.
Make It Memorable
When your teenager looks back on their high school years, prom could be remembered as a triumph or a tragedy. If you have a good relationship with your teen, it is more likely that they will stick to any agreement you have for prom night plans and that they will reach out to you if they run into trouble.
So make sure you set some time aside to talk to your teen prior to prom. Discuss making good decisions, having boundaries, and understanding how serious the consequences can be if they drink and drive or ride with someone who drinks and drives.
Although it may not seem to you like you have a lot of influence over your teen at this time in their life, statistics show that your opinion matters to them and affects their behavior.
Encourage your teen to make memories and enjoy their prom! And make sure they know that fun and safety are not incompatible. With a plan in place and parental support, your teen can have a night that they will look back on with fondness for many years.