April 16, 2021 – Area high school students are heading back to prom, one year after the pandemic cancelled the cherished tradition. AAA Oklahoma reminds teens, and their families, to make sure safety is at the top of their prom check lists. There were 13,088 crashes involving teen drivers on Oklahoma roads in 2019, according to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office. Sixty-two people died in these tragedies.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States and there are a multitude of risks associated with prom night festivities, including nighttime driving, additional teen passengers and impaired and intexticated driving.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teens are more likely than anyone else to be killed in an alcohol-related crash. In 2016, almost one out of five teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking. Even though the minimum legal drinking age is 21, data shows 16 percent of 15- to 18-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2016 had been drinking.
“Prom night this year will be extra special for teens,” says Leslie Gamble, AAA Oklahoma spokeswoman. “However, this is also a night that can end tragically due to risky behavior such as impaired or distracted driving. It is critically important that parents and teens discuss the rules of safe driving, especially if they have not experienced the exhilaration of such exciting events as much due to the pandemic.”
Research conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has identified several factors that increase the danger to teen drivers and their passengers:
- Nearly two-thirds of people injured or killed in a crash involving a teen driver are people other than the teen behind the wheel (i.e. other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, etc.)
- Nighttime driving, especially between the hours of 9 p.m. and midnight can be risky.
- Distraction was a factor in nearly 6 out of 10 moderate-to-severe teen crashes. The most frequent potentially distracting behaviors were talking or otherwise interacting with passengers and cell phone use.
Recognizing these risk factors can be useful in creating a safe driving plan for teens (both drivers and passengers) planning to attend prom this spring.
AAA offers the following tips:
- Develop a safe driving plan: AAA encourages parents to make a safe driving plan with their teen, set a reasonable time to return home and talk with them about potential risks such as driving with a passenger, or driving impaired or distracted.
- Discuss prom plans with other parents. Don't assume all parents share your values and will monitor your teen's actions as you would expect. Exchange phone numbers and talk with other parents and your teen's friends to ensure ample communication.
- Limit the number of passengers in a vehicle. Parents should limit the number of teens in the vehicle to the driver and one passenger. The teens may have plans to go “as a group” but they should drive in separate vehicles and enjoy the “group” when they reach their destinations (pictures, dinner, prom and after prom).
- Say no to alcohol and other illicit drugs. Remind your teen that it is against the law for anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol. Encourage teens to be prepared to appropriately handle peer pressure to drink alcohol or use illicit drugs such as marijuana by saying no. Do not serve alcohol or drugs to your teen or any other teen in your home.
- Don’t drive intexticated. Remind teen passengers not to create distractions for the driver. No cell phone use while driving. Keep your eyes on the road and limit passenger interaction.
- Remember defensive driving skills. Teens will be on the road on a weekend night with adult drivers who may be driving impaired (from alcohol or drugs). They need to be attentive and watch for other drivers who may not be driving safely.
- Be prepared for a roadside emergency. Make sure your AAA membership is up to date and your teen driver is added in case there is car trouble. Teen drivers should also program 1-800-AAA-HELP in their phones.