The Perils of Prom & Graduation


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THE MOFFA REPORT MAY 2015

Five Ways Young Cape Codders Can Avoid the Perils of Prom & Graduation

By John S. Moffa, Esq.

They are innocent and iconic springtime rites-of-passage though both prom and graduation ‘seasons’ are fraught with danger between the Lower and Upper Capes and all towns in between. Between the glitter, flowers, pictures and teenage merriment that comes with proms and commencement into a wider world, only a thoughtless moment separates a minor wearing a gown or tux or graduation robe from a senseless, life-changing moment involving alcohol, a motor vehicle accident or other type of personal injury.

Unfortunately, my office has seen first hand the devastating effects of alcohol and driving during prom and graduation season. In 2010 I represented the family of a teenaged girl who was tragically killed while a passenger in a friend’s car en route to pick up their prom dresses. We have handled many drunk-driving cases over the years involving teenagers, and it is always heartbreaking to see the impact one bad decision can have
on family, friends and loved ones.

Indeed, the sheer number of prom-going teenagers who will soon graduate from high schools in May and into early June is staggering in Barnstable County.
No fewer than a dozen public, private and parochial schools from Bourne to Nauset and all over Cape Cod, are hosting proms and graduations in spring: Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School, Falmouth Academy, Sturgis East and West, Pope John Paul II and Barnstable High School in Hyannis,Sandwich High School and Harwich High to name just a few.

In each of these schools, hundreds of students are in party mode, in hundreds of vehicles dashing to and fro between prom sites, often on same weekends;same thing with graduation weekend. And it’s on prom night, however, that sees more teenagers on the road than any other night in high school. It’s the beginning of graduation ‘season’ that sees more newly-minted high school graduates seemingly without a care in the world: perfect storms for trouble.

For parents and guardians and those who safeguard communities, nothing is scarier than a partying teenager who drinks and then operates a motor vehicle. And these concerns are shared nationwide. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that during a typical prom weekend, at least fifty teens are killed and another 5,000 are injured. Graduation celebrations are nearly equally as dangerous. In fact, the summer between high school and the start of college is sadly and traditionally, a very dangerous time for teens because of alcohol, distracted driving, and timing: on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights more teens die in accidents than any other part of the week.
But you can do a lot to prevent potential tragedies. You should, in fact, do as much as you can. Information exists to keep parents informed and their kids, safe. With three young adult children of my own, I’m a veteran of Parental Prom Syndrome, and I get it: the worries over safety partnered with seeing the joy on these kids’ faces.

Here are my top 5 tips I share with my clients who are parents of prom-going teenagers:

  • Figure out if your teen’s school has a specific game plan or schedule of events and be sure your teen remains committed to formal plan;
  • Have a blunt conversation with your teen driver about drugs, drinking and driving on prom night and graduation weekend. Prom is a night of celebration, but high schoolers should not equate celebratory options that include illegal drugs and alcohol;
  • Set up a meeting with all your teen’s friends before prom night. Have other parents join in as well. Get everyone’s mobile numbers and make a plan about curfews. Be vigilant in addressing your concerns with your teen and their friends, and have everyone agree on an itinerary.It’s not a bad idea to coordinate the same protocols for graduation weekend;
  • Emphasize that motor vehicle accidents are life-changing: results include brain damage, broken bones, disfigurement, a range of permanent disabilities, and death. If your teen driver was negligent and caused an accident, your child’s entire future is at stake.
  • Invest in alternate group transportation. Limo’s and other services are tremendous, affordable options that save lives and liability

Remember, a safe prom weekend and graduation season isn’t impossible! But parents have to partner with their teens and make a family plan that keeps all prom-goers safe, and protocols that ensure the well being of entire communities. If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident caused by the negligence of others, I encourage you to reach out to an injury attorney with extensive experience handling these types of cases. I can help you recover money and protect your family, and I’ve been doing so on Cape Cod and throughout Southeastern Massachusetts for nearly 30 years.

For a free consultation, please call my office at 800-446-4485 or email me at moffalaw@cape.com. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to help you.