When your teen walks out the door on prom night, in the back of your mind you're yelling a slew of warnings: "Don't drink. Don't drink and drive. Don't get into a car with someone who's been drinking." Okay, so maybe you really are hollering those things at your teen. You'd be justified. According to the most recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, teen alcohol-related traffic fatalities rise dramatically during prom season.
So consider these strategies:
Rent a Limo
This classy solution will cost about $75 per hour, but you can easily split the expense among four or five couples. In addition to a nice tip, slip the driver the phone numbers of the parents of all the teens in the limo, says Gary Direnfeld, executive director of the I Promise Program, which promotes responsible teen driving.
Don a Chauffeur's Cap
If limos aren't available, then become your own limousine service and chauffeur your teen. "Act like a real chauffeur and stay out of their way," Direnfeld advises. Another thing you can do to spiff up the evening is rent a convertible or a big luxury car. Bonus: You get to drive it around with a big grin while they're dancing.
The last option for prom night should be allowing teens to drive themselves. If it's unavoidable, limit the number of passengers your teen can take to one other couple. And set midnight as the driving deadline. Statistics show that between midnight and 6 a.m., the chances of being in a crash skyrocket. If they need to go to an after-prom party, have them grab a cab. Or take them there yourself.
Be On Call
Make sure your teens understand that you will provide a pickup service at any hour. "Make an explicit agreement that you will pick them up and not ask any questions -- at least not that night," says Wendy Hamilton, the national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. And give them a cell phone before they leave.
Originally published in Better Homes and Gardens magazine, May 2004.