April 14, 2016 4:16 pm

Majority of teens expect peers to drink and drive on prom night: survey

Limos and charter buses may still reign as kings for prom transportation but they have competition from Uber and other hail services, along with teens who plan to rent their own wheels or borrow from mom and dad.

AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File
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NEW YORK – Prom is as much about the journey as it is the dance, so how will all those teens heading into the annual rite of spring handle their wheels?

Limos and charter party buses may still be kings for prom, at least in some areas, but they don’t have a stranglehold on transport considering the rise of Uber and similar hail services. Other high schoolers looking to save money plan to ditch rentals and drive themselves.

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Prom has morphed into multiple activities at multiple locations, complicating logistics in getting around, a particularly thorny issue for teens who will drink and drug. According to research, more than 90 per cent of teens believe their fellow classmates will likely drink and drive on prom night and only 29 per cent believe that driving on prom night comes with a high degree of danger.

Nearly 1 out of 10 teens in one survey reported being a passenger of someone under the influence on prom night.

Jillian Frisch, an 18-year-old in Voorhees, New Jersey, has no intention of being one of them when she and her friends drive themselves — two or three to a car — to their May 13 prom, along with a trip to the shore for an overnight after-party in a rented house.

READ MORE: Canadians plan to spend more than $500 on prom this year

“Drinking and driving is stupid. Most kids wait until they safely get to the shore house or wherever they go after prom to celebrate,” she said.

Jillian’s dad, Gary Frisch, is fine with the transportation arrangements but fully acknowledged that some kids will drink once they get to the “prom house.”

“I’m actually trusting that there will be no illicit alcohol during the prom itself, and do trust that my daughter won’t get in a vehicle with an impaired driver,” he said.

Some towns have gotten around that risk entirely by taking the issue of transportation into their own hands.

In Glen Rock, New Jersey, along with many others, teens must take chaperoned charter buses to and from prom. The cost is often built into the price of prom tickets.

“They can drive themselves to school and then the bus takes them to the prom location,” said mom Angela Crawford, whose 18-year-old son will attend senior prom in Glen Rock on June 3. “All school activities the day of the prom end in time so that the children have enough time to go home and change and meet the bus.”

It works about the same at Anna Schiferl’s large suburban Chicago high school which not only requires teens to take the sanctioned luxury charter buses to prom but also to approved post-prom events.

Her prom is May 31 on Navy Pier, an attraction in Chicago about 20 miles from the school in La Grange.

“I haven’t personally experienced the bus ride to prom yet since my school has only a senior prom, but I haven’t heard any complaints,” said 17-year-old Anna. “Although it isn’t exceptionally far away, I believe the buses will make it a faster and easier trip than driving, Ubering, taking a limo.”

READ MORE: How to save money by going the DIY-route for your prom

After the dance, there’s a post-prom cruise, she said.

“I’m glad my friends and myself won’t have to worry about organizing rides home in the late night-early morning hours,” she said. “It’s one less thing we’ll have to co-ordinate.”

Sam Levy, owner of US Bargain Limo, which operates rental fleets in parts of New Jersey, along with New York City and Philadelphia, said prom business is still going strong.

“It’s one of our busiest times of the year,” he said, estimating prom transport amounts to about 30 to 35 per cent of his rentals. “The party buses are the most popular.”

Such vehicles can hold about 15 to 55 people, depending on the size needed, Levy said. Usually, he sees prom groups of 20 kids or more on rentals of 10 to 12 hours at a stretch covering prom and post-prom stops.

Absolutely no alcohol is allowed, Levy said, noting that parents or guardians must sign contracts and put a credit card on file. That said, he tries not to turn his drivers into the prom police, choosing to let them concentrate on the road.

“But we’re not playing games. We’ll take them back home if they’re drinking,” Levy said.

William Horrey, a senior researcher at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, urges parents to make sure prom couples travel alone if they skip limos.

Why? Because a quarter of teen drivers in a survey done for the Liberty Mutual and SADD, the non-profit Students Against Destructive Decisions, said having three or more teen passengers in the car is distracting while driving, Horrey said.

Colleen Sheehy-Church in Madison, New Jersey, is the national president of MADD, for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. She lost her 18-year-old son, Dustin, in 2004 when he got in a car with an impaired, underage friend behind the wheel after they decided to go on a late-night pizza run.

While tragedy struck in July and was not prom-related, she said MADD has a zero tolerance for drinking of any kind by underage teens — all year round.

“We know our Dustin was sober. We know that by an autopsy,” she said. “And he was seat belted, and we really had great conversations with him, but unfortunately he made a mistake.”

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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