Parents urged to discussing drinking with teens ahead of prom season

WASHINGTON – Prom season can be a stressful time for teens and parents. For kids it’s those nervous moments asking someone to the dance, choosing a tux, finding a dress or buying the corsages.

Parents worry about getting their children to the prom and back safely. And experts say now is the time to talk to teens about alcohol.

Kurt Erickson with the Washington Regional Alcohol Program says this is the time of year, between May and August, when the greatest number of teens are killed in car crashes in the United States.

And nearly a third of those teens killed had been drinking, he says.

In Virginia, underage drivers with a blood alcohol level of .02 or above can be convicted of a misdemeanor and can lose their driver’s license for a year, Erickson says.

“There is not an 18-year-old on the planet who wants his parents to drive him on a date,” he says.

Parents can significantly impact whether their teen will engage in risky behavior like drinking, he says.

Erickson says parents who allow teens to drink in their home could find themselves on the wrong side of the law if any of the teens drive off and crash.

“If these same friends are later involved in a crash, the providing parents may be responsible for injuries, responsible for property damage and responsible for wrongful death,” Erickson said.

Criminal charges like contributing to the delinquency of a minor are also possible for parents who allow underage drinking to happen under their roof.

Paying for a limo the night of the big dance is one alternative for parents concerned about their kids drinking before or after the prom.

Erickson says in Montgomery County parents can hire a company that has been trained by the police to stop and not allow drinking in their cars. It’s part of the county’s Keep it SAFE initiative.

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