Prom Season Highlights Driving Dangers for Teens

AAA offers prom-goer safety tips to parents and teens

TOPEKA, Kan. – April 25, 2018 – Teens donning tuxedos and beautiful gowns signal the annual prom season at Kansas high schools. As parents and teens create the last minute prom to-do lists (pick up tuxedo, make hair appointments, choose the perfect location for pictures), don’t forget to place “safe driving reminder” at the top of the list.

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 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 in every State is 21, data shows 16 percent of 15- to 18-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2016 had been drinking.

“Prom night is great opportunity for teens to get dressed up for a night on the town with their friends,” said Shawn Steward, AAA Kansas spokesman. “Unfortunately, it is also a night where tragedy can strike and change a teen’s future due to risky behavior such as driving while impaired or distracted.”

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.)
Distraction was a factor in nearly 6 out of 10 moderate-to-severe teen crashes. The most frequent potentially-distracting behaviors were conversing 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 Kansas 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 and also while 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. 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 by saying no. Do not serve alcohol to your teen or any other teen in your home.
  • Don’t drive while impaired, distracted or drowsy:
    • 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.
    • Remind your teen that safe, responsible drivers do not combine drinking and driving.
    • Remind your teen to not drive if they are drowsy after a long night of dancing. Sleepiness can slow reaction time, decrease awareness, and impair judgement.
  • 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.

Additional safe driving tips for teens and parents can be found at www.teendriving.aaa.com.

Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.