Prom season has arrived in our community. prom is May 19. While your teens might be worried about looking their best for the big event, no doubt, parents are worried about the possibility of underage drinking and their kids' safety. If this sounds like you, you're not alone.
70 percent of Florida residents who participated in a recent AAA Auto Club survey think underage drinking and drug use is more of a concern now than when they were a teen.
Statistics show there is a lot to be concerned about when it comes to underage drinking. One in three youths under the age of 21 who were killed in alcohol-related incidents died during prom and graduation season, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
"That's a pretty high number to me," says Pinellas County Sheriff's Sgt. Jack Peterson.
On prom nights, a Pinellas County Sheriff's Deputy and a School Resource Officer will be outside dance locations with a portable breathalyzer. Students who appear to be under the influence of alcohol will be required to give a breath sample, if they refuse to take the breath sample, or if they refuse to allow deputies to look in their car, they will not be allowed inside the prom, according to Peterson.
He says one rare occasion, a teen consumed a lot of alcohol, putting himself in danger. "A few years ago, a kid passed out and we had to call paramedics to transport him to the hospital," said Peterson.
So, what's a parent to do if they're worried about their child drinking alcohol at prom?
Marriane Pasha with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office says parents need to remember that underage drinking is illegal and parents should not let their kids drink alcohol in their home as an alternative. "There's a stream of thought out there to serve alcohol in a home as opposed to driving," said Pasha.
Even though underage drinking is illegal, teens can still find ways to get their hands on alcohol during prom season. AAA has created the "AAA PROMise," a program with the goal of protecting teens and motorists during prom and graduation season.
The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is partnering with AAA to get the word out to students about the program. School Resource Officers assigned to individual Pinellas County Schools help inform teens about AAA PROMise.
“Although it’s illegal for anyone to drink alcohol under the age of 21, it’s unfortunate that many teens still find ways to obtain alcohol and choose to drink, especially during the prom and graduation season, sometimes with deadly consequences, which is why we offer the AAA PROMise program,” said Kevin Bakewell of AAA Auto Club Group.
The AAA PROMise is a three-part agreement between AAA, teens celebrating prom and graduation, and parents concerned for the safety of their children:
1) The teen makes the following promise to their parents before celebrating:
- I promise not to drink alcohol or take drugs.
- I promise not to drive under the influence.
- I promise not to let my friends drive under the influence.
- I promise my parents I will get home safely.
2) When a teen makes the AAA PROMise, AAA promises to be there for parents and teens to help get everyone home safely during prom and graduation season.
3) If a teen can’t drive home, they are encouraged to call their parent(s) and their parent(s) can call 1-800-AAA-HELP for a FREE tow home of the family vehicle.