In the glow of graduation, college acceptance, and teen romance, even the most sensible kids take risks they shouldn’t on prom night. Binge drinking, drunk driving, and unprotected sex can even seem like rites of passage. Here’s what you need to know to keep your teenager safe

  • Make sure your child and, ideally, you, know her date. If it’s a fix-up, ask her to meet the guy beforehand in a public space to confirm that he seems okay. Remind her that it’s best not to be alone with anyone she doesn’t know well.
  • For many teenagers, the prom itself is just one stop in a night that begins with dinner and may end the next day after brunch. Make sure you know your child’s agenda and approve of every stop. If he’s at loose ends and you’re brave enough, offer to host breakfast at your place; you’ll know where your kid is and be able to monitor everyone’s condition. 
  • While you’re sure to earn some eye-rolling, it’s worth asking your teenager to rehearse how he’d react if offered alcohol or drugs. 
  • While you’re at it, reiterate that sex isn’t something to be undertaken impulsively, lightly, or without safeguards. Prom lasts one night; pregnancy and STDs don’t. 
  • The biggest danger teens face on prom night is auto accidents, either because the driver has been drinking or is simply distracted by a carload of exuberant pals. If you can afford it, chip in for a chauffeured limousine ride; you’ll know there are seatbelts for every passenger, and you’ll know the driver is experienced and sober.
  • According to the National Highway Travel Safety Administration, car crashes were the leading cause of death for people between ages 15-20 in 2005 (the last year for which data was available), and 23% of drivers killed had blood alcohol content over .08. When someone drinks and drives, they are not only more likely to get into an accident; the accident is more likely to be severe, and the passenger is less likely to wear a seatbelt. If you can’t afford a limo, tell your child you will be available at all hours to take his phone call and pick him and his friends up – no questions asked.
  • Don’t let your child out the door without a cell phone (yours if she doesn’t have one) and money for a cab – just in case.

If your kids complain that you’re taking all the fun out of a night that comes once in a lifetime, remind them that it’s your job to make sure that lifetime is as long as possible. The fun is their responsibility.