How to Prevent Underage Drinking Around Prom
Prom season is upon us. Teenagers all over San Diego are picking out tuxedos and dresses, deciding which boutonnière or corsage they’ll give to their date, and choosing a limo service.
Many teens are also trying to figure out how they’re going to get alcohol. Some will beg their parents. Others will ask an older sibling or friend to buy booze for them. Tragically, they will succeed. And unfortunately, it’s history that every year during prom season teenagers engage in binge drinking which results in alcohol poisoning, risky sexual behavior and deadly alcohol-related car accidents.
Here are some considerations for parents to keep in mind before sending their children off into the night for high school’s most glamorous event.
“It’s tragic but prom season can be a very busy time of the year,” says Lieutenant Craig Carter with the Escondido Police Department. “We would love this to be the year that we don’t have to respond to any DUI incidents involving minors. We would like to have parents take more precautions to protect their kids.”
According to the Escondido Police Department there were 293 incidents in 2008 involving minors in possession of alcohol, being drunk in public or driving under the influence of alcohol. The police department’s statistics show that by far the most dangerous months for underage abuse of alcohol are May and October. In May 2008 there were 33 minors cited or arrested for alcohol-related crimes in Escondido. There were 34 in October. The incidents in these two months comprise 22% of all incidents in that entire year. This should tell parents that prom is not something to take lightly.
Barbara Gauthier is the Director of Intervention with the Escondido Union High School District. She had this advice for parents, “Know who your child is going to prom with. Other parents might not have the same concerns as you about alcohol, hotel rooms and curfews. Talk with the other parents and set common expectations and rules.”
“Every parent wants to be loved and respected by their kids,” says Michele Henry, Escondido Council PTA President-Elect. “But some parents want to be their child’s friend rather than a responsible parent—this can lead to a teen’s reckless behavior.”
Some parents feel that a good compromise is to let their children drink with their friends in their home after prom. “This is a common misconception,” says Lieutenant Carter. “Not only is it illegal under the Social Host Ordinance and punishable with a $1000 fine and up to 6 months in jail-but it’s physically impossible to keep track of what everyone is doing in your home.”
“Those parents think that if they can control the environment in which their child will drink, they can stop anything before it gets out of hand,” Henry added. “Parents may not realize that providing alcohol even one time can lead to drinking outside the home or drinking when the parent isn’t present. It becomes an acceptable behavior because the parent has condoned it.”
One limousine company has responded to parents’ concerns about alcohol. Jeff Jacob is a retired Escondido Police sergeant and owns Extreme Limousine in Escondido. “When underage people rent our limousines we don’t allow any alcohol in the back at any time. If we find any alcohol the ride stops immediately, our driver confiscates the alcohol and calls the parents.”
Extreme Limousine can enforce such rules because both the students and their parents have to sign a contract. “99.9 percent of parents love it. We explain the whole process to them. The parents give us an itinerary and our drivers won’t deviate from that.”
Jacob mentioned that a lot of limousine companies come out to meet the high demand for driving services around prom—but not all of them take the effort to safeguard their juvenile passengers. “We do random drug testing on all our drivers. We are enrolled in a DMV pull program which allows us to access our drivers’ driving record.” Jacob added, “Obviously, we can’t control what the kids do while they’re outside our car. But we do what we can when they’re in the car.”
Teenagers riding in limousines and party busses tend to engage in binge drinking. Binge drinking means consuming 5 or more drinks in 2 hours. Statistics from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) confirm suspicions that underage and binge drinking are extraordinarily dangerous. The center estimates that “teenage girls who binge drink are up to 63% more likely to become teen mothers,” CAMY also notes that “Young people are aware that using alcohol influences their decisions about sexual behavior: 29% of 15- to17-year-olds and 37% of 18- to 24-year-olds said that alcohol or drugs influenced their decision to do something sexual.”
If parents want more information Gauthier recommends that they talk to their child’s school counselor. Parents can also visit www.live2graduate.com for prevention tips and advice. For more statistics and fact sheets visit www.camy.org. To contact Extreme Limousine call 760-746-1442 or visit www.sdextremelimo.com.
All photographs from the Underage Drinking PSA are used with permission from the North Inland Community Prevention Program, the Escondido Education COMPACT, Orange Glen High School and Christian Ortiz.
Photo 1: from 826 Chicago via flickr
Logo used with permisssion of Extreme Limousine