Making Prom Night an occasion to remember, not a tragedy to forget
Few occasions in our lives produce more lasting memories than our high school proms. The pomp and pageantry is unforgettable as we bid farewell to more than a decade of schooling and the treasured friendships forged throughout our childhood. It culminates in a night of fun and frivolity before we embark on the next journey in our lives.
As a father of triplets, I witnessed that joy and excitement just a couple years ago as my sons and daughter headed out to their high school proms. The excitement I felt for them as they basked in the enthusiasm of prom night, however, was masked somewhat by my own worry. As a father and law enforcement officer for nearly 40 years, I have the unique experience and unfortunate perspective of personally witnessing the darker side of prom season. Far too often, happy times can turn tragic — often the result of someone intoxicated getting behind the wheel of a car.
Here are some sad and sobering facts:
- Young people aged 12 to 19 are already more likely to die in an accident than by any other cause, with motor vehicle crashes being the most common.
- Between April and June (peak prom and graduation season), there is a massive spike in alcohol-related teen traffic fatalities, accounting for roughly a third of the annual death toll.
Instead of celebrating the occasion responsibly, many teens use it as an excuse to get intoxicated. A recent study found that more than 40 percent of teens said it was likely they or their friends would use drugs or alcohol on prom night. To make matters worse, many teens drink in excess. According to a separate study, more than 50 percent of teens admitted to drinking four or more alcoholic beverages during prom night.
Keeping our kids safe has always been a priority. That is why, as prom season kicks into high gear, the Broward Sheriff’s Office and a host of community partners team up to raise awareness in the battle to eliminate drunk driving. We want to see our teens enjoy a safe and memorable prom season.
Each year, BSO presents important programs to warn and inform teens of the serious consequences of impaired driving. One such program is Prom Promise, where Broward Sheriff’s Fire Rescue firefighters/paramedics conduct a vehicle crash scenario of what happens when someone is involved in a crash. The presentation can be quite intense and real — but it reinforces the dangers and potentially fatal consequences of drinking and driving.
We also work closely with the Meagan Napier Foundation, created and run by the mother of a teen killed by a drunk driver. Renee Napier, whose daughter Meagan and her friend Lisa Dickson were killed in a 2002 car accident, co-presents with Eric Small-ridge, the drunk driver responsible for taking their lives. Renee and Eric share the story of heart-wrenching tragedy and the painful aftermath on all the participants. BSO also continues to be a proud supporter of other community organizations devoted to stamping out drunk driving, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
Our young sons and daughters should dance, have fun and make lasting memories this prom season. But, above all, they should also be safe. Parents: please speak with your children. Remind them to protect their futures by making good choices – before a night to remember turns into one we’d all like to forget.
Sheriff Scott Israel