Keeping Your Teen Safe at the School Dance

Unfortunately, too many teens don’t make it home from the prom, homecoming and other school dances. Teens are four times more likely to have car accidents than older drivers. Crash risk increases when they are with other teen passengers, and crash rates double at night, report the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But with planning and diligent involvement, you can help ensure your teen makes it home safely after a school dance or other function. 

Go Over All the Rules

What are some major contributing factors for teen car accidents? Alcohol, texting while driving and lack of seatbelt use rank high. Your child has heard the rules, but you should go over them. Again. In 2011, nearly a quarter of teens admitted to riding with a driver who had been drinking, according to the CDC.

When you lay down the law, make sure to touch on these areas:

  • No drinking – There shouldn’t be any teen drinking, given that underage drinking is prohibited. Remind teens of the dangers of drinking and driving and make it abundantly clear that they can call you or a family friend for a ride if their driver has been drinking. And while the rules say no drinking whatsoever, you may even allow your teen to call you for a ride if he or she has been drinking, without fear of repercussion.
  • No texting and driving – Texting while driving can be fatal. Stress that fact to your teen. Not only should your teen not text while driving, but if someone else is driving and attempts to text, tell your teen to speak up and say something like, “Hey, can I do that for you?”
  • Wear a seatbelt – Only approximately half of teens report always wearing a seat belt, according to the CDC. This is not OK, given that seat belts weren’t used in 56 percent of fatal teen crashes where the driver was drinking and driving. Remind them that not only is wearing a seat belt your rule, but it’s also the law.
  • Respect curfew – Set a reasonable curfew. Most teen accidents occur at night. Plus, the later they stay out, the greater the possibility for trouble.


Practice Plans of Action

Help your teen practice not only his or her driving skills, but also your teen’s response in various scenarios. You might try role playing until your teen has responses that he or she is comfortable with. For instance, you can practice: 

  • what to do when the teen realizes the driver has been drinking (call you or a designated family friend for a ride);
  • what to say, should someone offer drugs or alcohol; and
  • what to do, should someone make an unwanted advance towards him or her.


Be in the Know

Know all the details of the dance, the after-party, who is attending and who is driving. You should also get your teen’s friends’ numbers so you can have other points of contact. If your teen will be riding in a limo, make sure it’s a reputable company than won’t allow underage drinking.

“Leading experts believe parents play a key role in preventing teen car crashes and deaths,” the CDC encourages. Your guidance, teaching and attentiveness are vital to your teen coming home safely after the dance.

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