Health Department

The Prom is approaching. It's a time to plan with safety as priority one.Prom Driving

Springtime offers a change in mood and direction. It's a time when students are looking forward to graduation, summer activities and fun. Many students are thinking about the Prom, and expect the Prom to be a positive experience—one that he or she will never forget. There is much planning; much talk about gowns and tuxedos, which groups will get together, and of course, who will be the big date. However, the most important talk should come from parents and other conscientious students, making clear that Prom night safety is most crucial in the planning process. All Prom-goers must make a commitment to safe driving. And no matter what, alcohol and drugs have no invitations for a "fun" evening!

Drinking and driving is a serious problem among teens. In 2007, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 26% of drivers ages 15 to 20 that died in motor vehicle crashes had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher, and that 75% of those fatalities failed to use their seat belt. According to PennDOT, there were 1,491 fatalities in PA in 2007. Of those, 101 fatalities involved a 16 or 17 year old driver, an increase from 68 in 2006.

It's important for parents to be aware and accept that the drinking "playing field" is different than a generation ago. The teen social pressures are now prodded by instant messaging, instant photos/videos and internet sites, effectively side-stepping parental intervention or awareness. There is a raw sense of invincibility - that if it is undiscovered, it is non-punishable and therefore OK. Other disturbing trends are occurring with teens that were not so common years ago. The illegal drug scene (marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy) has evolved into a "legal" abuse of over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Teenagers think it is a "safe" high. In combination with alcohol, however, these medications can become deadly, either from the act of ingestion or the combination of induced impairment and driving.

Another concern is combining alcohol with ENERGY DRINKS, such as Red Bull. The stimulating effects of the energy drink masks the depressant effects of the alcohol. The drinker does not even realize he or she is drunk. This occurrence is known as "wide awake drunk." Young people who mix energy drinks with alcohol are twice as likely to be involved in alcohol related accidents and injuries compared to those who drink only alcohol. Wide awake drunks are twice as likely to drive drunk and ride with a drunk driver. Caffeine and alcohol are both diuretics (causing fluid loss). Together, they can cause life-threatening dehydration.

Though not new, the prevalent trend of binge drinking is growing worse. Heavy, fast drinking is terribly risky. A hangover is a given. Shakiness, alcohol poisoning and respiratory arrest leading to coma or death are major risks. Being drunk costs someone his reasoning ability, movement control, and reaction speed, making him or her deadly behind the wheel of a car. There are reasons to be prepared. Things are very different than a generation ago.

Take action on the Prom planning:

  • Know the teens involved.
  • Remove any intentions of alcohol or drugs.
  • Demand nothing less than driving safely and unimpaired.
  • Teach the habit of using seatbelts for all vehicle occupants.

This is the time for teens to demonstrate their character and personal convictions - and plan for many happy memories of their Prom Night.

Geof Crankshaw

Geof Crankshaw,
Coordinator Highway Safety Program
Erie County Department of Health

This information is distributed by Erie County Department of Health, 606 W. 2nd Street, Erie, PA 16507, 814-451-6700

Erie County Courthouse - 140 West Sixth Street, Erie, PA 16501 - (814) 451-6000 - TDD Phone: (814) 451-6237 - Hours: Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 4:30pm
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