By Marisa Cagnoli and Rebecca Newsham
Statistically, more teens die in alcohol-related car crashes during prom and graduation season than at any other time of the year. This Saturday, T.C. students will celebrate senior prom at the Marriott Crystal Gateway in Crystal City from 8:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. Area police are reminding everyone to be safe.
The wrecked car outside T.C. is a reminder that bad things can happen to teens at prom time. In Fairfax County eight people under the age of 20 lost their lives in car crashes in 2008. So far this year, only one teen has been killed on county roads.
Since 1982, the percentage in 15 to 20-year-olds involved in fatalities in drunk driving incidents has decreased by 65 percent during prom season. However, police and Mothers Against Drunk Driving remind everyone that it is important to practice basic safety precautions:
- Discuss plans with your friends/date ahead of time. Know your agenda and communicate with your parents.
- Plan ahead what you will say or do if someone offers you alcohol or another illegal drug.
- Know your date before you go. If your date is a set-up, try to take a walk at a park or go for a smoothie before the big night. Both you and your parents will feel better about you staying out late with someone you know.
- Find out what your curfew is and share it with your date/friends before prom night. Discuss with your parents after-curfew possibilities (the party at your friend’s house or early morning breakfast at your place).
- Ask a trusted adult to be near a phone and to be available prom night in case you need to call them.
Police also have some safety tips for parents:
- Talk to your teen and their friends about the severe consequences of underage alcohol use.
- Get a schedule of prom and graduation events in your area.
- Know where you child is; call ahead to make sure adult supervision is present at parties and celebrations.
- Talk to other parents.
- Consider drafting a written contract with your teen that pledges he/she will not drink alcohol and will discourage others from doing so.
- Schedule phone calls with your child at specific times.
- If you know of an event where underage drinking is taking place, call the police department at 703-838-4444.