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Prom season can be dangerous time for teens

Friday, April 11, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Statistics show nearly one-third of alcohol-related teen traffic deaths occur during April, May and June when parties and celebrations can turn dangerous and sometimes tragic for underage drinkers, according to the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control website.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website adds that statistics indicate alcohol-related peer pressure is strongest at prom time, due to the large number of parties in a short period.

In expressing support for alcohol- and substance-free after-prom events, SADD (founded as Students Against Driving Drunk but now Students Against Destructive Decisions) says on its website: “The use of alcohol is frequently linked with other risky and potentially destructive behaviors, such as physical and emotional violence, sexual mistakes or misjudgments, unintentional injuries such as drownings and falls, and, of course, alcohol overdose. It takes only one such incident to turn what should be an event that is remembered forever as a celebration into a tragedy.”

Of the schools participating in the Roanoke Area Youth Substance Abuse Coalition’s (RAYSAC) After Prom Grand Finale over the past 25 years, none has experienced a loss of a student due to drunken or drugged driving on prom night, according to RAYSAC information provided by Lisa Frick, chairperson of the after-prom party committee for Bassett High School.

RAYSAC helps or has helped support high schools throughout Southwest Virginia and in this area by sponsoring the After Prom Grand Finale, in which a car is given away, according to RAYSAC information and local officials.

Frick said people who stay at BHS’ after-prom party until the end will be eligible for a drawing in which several students will be selected to attend RAYSAC’s After Prom Grand Finale.

Bonnie Favero, prevention manager at Piedmont Community Services (PCS), said of high school-affiliated after-prom parties: “I think they are a wonderful idea. ... I believe a lot of students attend them and they are effective in keeping them safe.”

Katie Connelly, community organizer for prevention for PCS and coordinator for HEY! Coalition and CHILL Youth Task Force, said, “It’s a great alternative to give teens something to do after prom without getting involved in alcohol and other drugs. ... I think it (prom night) is one of the riskiest nights for teens, a night they really look forward to. Having an after-prom party, you know you’re going to have adults around and that it’s alcohol- and drug-free. You know you’re going to have fun.”

Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry said in the past he has worked as an off-duty officer at school after-prom parties. “I think they are great. The kids had a great time,” he said.

Outside of controlled events that have adult supervision, students may be tempted to make irresponsible decisions, such as experiment with drinking or drugs, speeding/racing, or having sex, he said.

Perry advises parents who host teen parties on their own after prom to know their responsibilities and liabilities. (Virginia ABC has a parental guide for hosting responsible teen parties at www.abc.virginia.gov/Education/resources/ParentsGuide.pdf.)

Sgt. Robert Carpentieri of the Virginia State Police said he thinks after-prom parties at schools reduce the chances of young people getting into car crashes or trouble in other ways. “These are important events for teens. We want everybody to have a good time and be responsible as well,” he said.

He advises teens against alcohol use and to limit the number of people in a car to avoid distractions. “Another couple is fine. You don’t want to load up with several people where it becomes a big distraction for the driver,” Carpentieri said.

He also advised parents to stay in touch with their children throughout prom night by text or cell phone.

The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control website gives these tips to teens and parents for a safe and happy prom:

• It is illegal for anyone under 21 to possess or consume alcohol. Remember to never drink alcohol and drive, or accept a ride with someone who has been drinking.

• People 18 to 20 convicted of underage purchase, possession or consumption of alcohol will lose their driver’s license for six months to a year. Consequences also include a Class 1 misdemeanor on file for life.

Teens under 18 also may lose their driver’s license for six months to a year or have driving privileges delayed for six months following the date he/she reaches the age of 16 and three months.

• Parents should ask their teens for a complete itinerary for the evening, including where they’ll be going before, during and after prom.

• Parents should ask their teens for cell phone numbers so they can reach them, and/or establish call-in times to connect with their kids.

• Be aware of alcoholic energy drinks, which contain 6-12 percent alcohol, nearly three times more alcohol than most beer.

• If your child is going to an after-prom party at a friend’s house, it is your responsibility to find out if the parents are going to allow underage drinking at their home.

• Offer your child the unconditional option of calling you for help, advice or to pick him or her up anytime, day or night. Make it clear you want to be part of your children’s smart and safe decisions.

 

 
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