Some young people feel a sense of freedom — of breaking away from their parents — and may drive aggressively to and from the prom, consume alcoholic beverages or engage in other dangerous behaviors such as texting while driving.
These are all documented causes of automobile accidents that have left victims with disabling injuries, permanent scars or the loss of their life.
Capt. W.G. Campbell, who supervises the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Unit, said, “I have a tremendous sense of pride in my work and enjoy my job, but one aspect that I do not enjoy is meeting with a parent to tell them their son or daughter has been seriously injured or killed in a traffic accident.”
Campbell encouraged parents to take time to stress safety.
“Prom night is a highlight of any person’s high school experience.”
Law enforcement agencies will do everything they can to make the evening a safe one.
The Tennessee Department of Health and the Department of Safety and Homeland Security have teamed up to ensure safe, healthy prom nights.
Some suggestions for parents from the Department of Health:
n Make sure you know the complete plan for the evening, including locations where your child will go and what time you expect him or her home. There’s nothing wrong with asking what restaurant, other home or location he or she will visit during the evening. That’s the obligation of parents and teens may appreciate it, even as they roll their eyes.
n Have contact information for other parents involved in your teen’s memorable night. If there is any issue, phone numbers and street addresses are invaluable.
n Be there when your teen leaves and don’t go to sleep until you know he or she is home safely. Let teens know you’ll be willing to talk or come get them anytime they may want to call.
n If you haven’t had conversations about sex, alcohol and drugs, muster up your parenting responsibilities and talk candidly. Prom night generates peer pressure to push boundaries so discuss limits and repercussions.
n Don’t talk down to your teen or lecture with scare tactics. A better approach is, “I know you already know this, but I want you to be safe and have fun, so…”
n Assure your son or daughter it’s OK to feel uncomfortable in any situation and want to come home. You may want to develop a code word so a teen doesn’t have to say, “My driver is drinking – come get me.”
Some advice from the Department of Safety and Homeland Security:
n Ask about the travel route for the evening. You may want tp suggest an alternative that avoids more dangerous roads or heavily congested areas.
n Remind your teen of the dangers of distracted driving. Make sure he or she has made all plans for pickups, drop-offs and meeting friends before getting in the car. Stress the dangers of texting and driving.
n Ask about the driver. If a limo service is being used, learn about their policy regarding consumption of alcohol in the vehicle and whether they require use of seatbelts.
n Ask your child to be a good friend to others. If he sees someone drinking and knows that person plans to drive other friends home, tell him to notify an authority figure – a teacher, a school official, you or a police officer. Good friends don’t let friends be at risk.
n Teach your children to be very careful accepting beverages from others, even from people they perceive as friends, to avoid the possibility of alcohol or drugs being slipped into their drink.
n If your teen is going to an “after-prom” party, know where it is, if it is adult-supervised, and what time it will end.
n Tell your children you want to stay in touch if they want to share news, but they shouldn’t use their cell phone while driving, either for talking or texting.
Campbell said the same precautions should be followed for graduation as the three local high schools have festivities scheduled in May.
Bradley Central High School has conducted their senior prom.
Campbell said his wishes for the students of Walker Valley High School and Cleveland High School is to have an enjoyable prom night and make sure that they return home with memories that will last your life time.