A survey conducted in 2009 was commissioned by Liberty Mutual Insurance Company. The survey was administered to thousands of 11th and twelfth graders. The results confirm some of the worst fears that many parents are thinking about as the Prom and graduation season is on the horizon.
Over 90 percent acknowledged that they and their peers will drink and drive on Prom night and 79 percent will drink and drive on graduation night. The survey revealed another ominous fact: Only 25 percent of youth believe that drinking and driving on Prom or Graduation night will place them at high risk. When driver distractions, texting, cell phone use and other youth in the vehicle are factored into the risk calculus, parents have good reason to be concerned.
According to the National Highway and Traffic safety Administration, more than one third of alcohol related deaths among drivers under the age of 21, died in the months of April, May and June: Prom and graduation season.
The survey also revealed a major "perception disconnect" between parents and their children. Nationally, 75 percent of parents say that they have talked to their children about the dangers of drinking and driving while only 25 percent of youth say that their parents have talked to them about the issue.
One of the most disturbing outcomes of the survey was that 52 percent of the survey respondents reported that they got their Prom and Graduation party alcohol from their parents or friends' parents.
Parents who host or ignore alcohol parties for youth during Prom and Graduation are exposing the attending youth to a life altering or potentially life ending risk. While we cannot totally stop youth from underage drinking behaviors and subsequently getting behind the wheel of a car, we can do better.
When over 50 percent of youth report that they get their alcohol from adults, the issue is no longer about underage drinkers but rather incredibly misguided and irresponsible adults. These are the adults that let young people get drunk at their homes and say that it is OK because, "we have their keys." They often have a a second set that you don't know about. Driving cars are not the only danger, either. Every year during the Prom/Graduation season, young people are drowned, burned, sexually assaulted and suffer many other life altering events.
If you are a young person, enjoy the Prom or your Graduation this year. Make good decisions for yourself, even if the adults around you do not. Don't get drunk on Prom or Graduation night; if you don't, you will have some nice memories to look back on. More importantly, if you do not get drunk on Prom or Graduation night, your chances of being alive and uninjured will increase exponentially. You will still be here to have a life, to live your dream and you will live on so, when you become a parent, you can keep your children safe during Prom and Graduation season. Remember, all kids count.
Scot Hurlburt can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org