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The end of the party

June 12, 2009 1:05 pm Published by Comments Off on The end of the party

end of the party

Prom season is winding down, and with it comes the usual grim news stories and statistics. Every year, there’s a permanent end of the party for someone — a partygoer, an adult, an innocent bystander.

2005. 290 young people ages 15-20 were killed in alcohol-related crashes — of those, 198 deaths involved a 15-20-year-old impaired driver. Statistics show that traffic deaths among teens during typical prom season weekends (March 1-May 31) are higher than any other time of year.

2007. An 18-year-old student dies of acute alcohol poisoning during an after-prom party. An adult is charged with reckless endangerment — she allowed underage drinking at her home, the site of the party.

2008. Two 15-year-old and 17-year-old students were killed, and two other teenagers injured, in a car accident after a prom party. Officials suspect underage drinking and excessive speed were factors in the crash.

2009. An 18-year-old student, under the influence of at least 10 beers, struck and killed a pedestrian after attending the prom. He awaits a pretrial hearing.

Alcohol-related peer pressure is strongest at prom time, due to the large number of parties in a short period. However, it’s not just pressure and influence from peers — often, adults turn a blind eye to underage drinking, wrongly perceiving drinking at prom as a rite of passage, or as a harmless way to blow off steam at the end of school.

Even schools can encourage this behavior; this year, prom organizers at a high school distributed souvenir shot glasses to attendees.

Fortunately, some schools work hard to create awareness and offer alternatives to the “standard” prom scenario. For example, Camarillo High School parents regularly hold an after-prom Safe and Sober party to encourage the students to have fun in a safe and supervised atmosphere and to avoid other all-night alternatives.

It takes that kind of dedication, on everyone’s part, to change the norms surrounding prom. Otherwise, we’ll continue to witness the end of the party for far too many people.

Becky Newman works for Straight Up Ventura County.

Statistics courtesy of MADD and NHTSA,