Prom and graduation season is just around the corner. While it's time to celebrate, it's also time to prepare for safe and sober fun.
Being the "cool" parent isn't worth it. If you're supplying alcohol to teens – or even just aware that it's present – you're putting yourself (and others) at risk.
When you provide alcohol, you're considered a "social host." Adults over 21 who consume that alcohol are responsible for their own actions, but minors under 21 are not. Under Pennsylvania's Social Host Law, you're the one who is responsible.
That means that if you give alcohol to a minor, and that minor receives a citation (like a DUI), injures someone, or injures themselves, you could face fines up to $2,500 per each teen involved, legal charges, and even jail time. Beware – that even includes if a teen took alcohol from your house, without your knowledge.
"It's a real problem," said Attorney Edgar Snyder. "A lot of parents will say, 'I didn't serve anyone,' but under the law, they did. Allowing your teen access to alcohol is never worth the cost, monetary or otherwise."
A lot of parents might say, "I'd rather them drink here than somewhere else" or "I'm taking away their car keys." But it's impossible to expect a parent to monitor everything that goes on if alcohol is supplied. Even if teens stay put at the party, there's still risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that alcohol is responsible for more than 4,300 underage deaths each year.
Never offer alcohol to teens on prom night, and if you're hosting a graduation party, keep it alcohol-free. If you must serve alcohol at a party, consider having the event at a staffed venue with a bartender checking IDs, or hire a bartender for a party at your house.
It's not just an adult problem. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly one-third of the teenage drivers killed in crashes in 2013 had been drinking.
It's not enough to threaten punishment after the fact. Rather, it's recommended that you have a conversation before prom or any other social event. We get it – you're not up for the eye rolling and attitude from your kid. Explaining to your teen the dangers of drinking and driving is not an easy one, but it can save their life. Discuss what your child's plans are for prom night, including where they're going to take photos, and where they're spending "after prom."
That's not to say that your teen would be drinking and driving – it might be another teen. We've all caved into peer pressure before, and no matter how independent your child may be, a group of friends can seem pretty convincing. Make it clear that no matter the situation, if your child needs a safe ride or is concerned about a friend, they should feel comfortable calling you.
After you and your teen have discussed the risks of drinking and driving, consider taking the Edgar Snyder & Associates Don't Drink & Drive Pledge. As a bonus, by signing the pledge, you're entered to win a $100 Visa Gift Card.