Editorial: Teenagers made aware of the dangers of drinking and driving
On March 24, the Clinton Department of Public Safety, the SC Highway Patrol and the Laurens County EMS partnered to bring a prom-safety message to Clinton High School students. The story and pictures by Editor Vic MacDonald in last week’s issue vividly show the dangers of young people “being young people” in the critical and dangerous hours following their high school prom. The focus was on drinking and driving as it should have been. “Every two minutes, someone is killed or injured in a drunk driving wreck,” said DPS Director Robin Morse. “Drinking is a factor in one-third of (all traffic) fatalities.” But driving without using a seatbelt is a problem among young people and a particular problem in Laurens County. Morse said that in nine of the 22 traffic fatalities in the county in 2015, the person who died was not wearing a seatbelt. That’s more than twice the number of traffic fatalities in Laurens County which were alcohol related. Highway Patrol Trooper J.T. Moore told the students it’s a “scientific fact wearing a seat belt will help save your life.” The CHS students – the March 24 mock accident was the first at Clinton High School – saw “dead” bodies and distraught “parents.” They saw their fellow students, members of the firefighting class at CHS, work to extricate their friends from mangled vehicles. Fire trucks arrived, as did ambulances from EMS. Then a medivac helicopter showed up. Finally, the Laurens County Coroner’s office arrived to pronounce two students “dead.” CHS Principal Maureen Tiller said talking about the dangers of drinking and driving, distracted driving, not using a seatbelt, not driving safely “are things we should be talking about all the time, but especially before prom and graduations as these are milestones in your lives.” Prom safety is more important than prom dresses and tuxedoes. Wearing a seatbelt is more important than not wrinkling a dress. Traffic accidents are the #1 killer of teenagers. A fully-charged cell phone is an important prom accessory. Not for texting and driving, but for calling mom or dad if the need arises. Before sending their teenager off for a memorable night, parents need to make sure they have a complete itinerary and contact information for anyone their child will be with. Parents must insist that an adult be present at all times at all after-prom events. It’s important that the driver knows ahead of time where any after-prom party is and how to get there. Prom night is one of the most anticipated events of the year for high schoolers – other than graduation night – and the one parents dread the most. Information from the Safe and Sober Prom Night program says: “Prom night always seems to be linked with drunk-driving injuries, deaths, date rapes and pregnancies.” Prom night has become the night where teens’ poor judgment and dangerous choices can change lives or even end lives. Teens and adults must remember that underage drinking is illegal. Providing alcohol to anyone under the age of 21 is illegal. In all situations, teenagers should trust their instincts. If they are in a situation that makes them feel at all in danger or uncomfortable, they should leave immediately. Call a parent if necessary. That’s the call a parent would rather get than the call from the police or coroner. Parents need to have serious discussion with their teenager well before they leave for the prom. As the adults in the relationship, the conversation about prom safety should be initiated by the parents. This isn’t a time to be the “cool” parent. The Clinton High School prom is April 16. We hope it is memorable for only the best reasons. As Trooper Moore said to the CHS students: Be smart. Make good decisions. .