Q: My 16-year-old daughter will be going to her first prom soon. I want
her to have a good time, but I’m worried about her safety on a night
when so much drinking and driving is going on. Any advice?
A: With the advent of spring, teenagers around the country are looking
forward to prom night and graduation activities. It’s a very exciting
time in a young person’s life, and naturally parents want their
children to have fun, but they also want them to be safe.
“All the more reason to reinforce the message that drinking and driving
can be disastrous,” says Gary Pace, Ph.D., clinical director of
May Institute’s school for children and adolescents with brain injury.
“According to the National Highway Safety Administration, alcohol-related
crashes kill more young people ages 16 to 20 than any other age group.
And many young people who survive serious automobile accidents are left
with life-threatening or life-altering brain injuries.”
Most young people will assure their parents that they know all about the
dangers of drinking and driving. However, some who would not drink and
drive could find themselves in a situation where they might be tempted
to ride with someone who does.
“Statistics reveal that eight young people die every day in alcohol-related
crashes,” said Pace. “Many of these deaths occur in the spring
and summer months following prom night and graduation parties. And many
of these fatalities are caused by traumatic brain injuries that, in most
cases, are preventable.”
Traumatic brain injury affects approximately 1 million children every year,
with 165,000 requiring hospitalization. According to the Brain Injury
Association of America, more people experience traumatic brain injury
each year than breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and spinal
cord injuries combined. Currently, more than 5 million Americans are living
with disabilities caused by brain injury.
For those young people who survive a life-threatening brain injury, long-lasting
effects may impact their ability to function well at school, home and
in other settings.