Planning a Safe Prom

You’re going to remember your prom for the rest of your life. It can be a time of laughter, dancing, fun, and celebration. But it can also a dangerous time. Automobile crashes are the leading cause of death among teens, and according to recent NHTSA (National Highway and Transport Safety Administration) figures, approximately 33% of traffic deaths of 15- to 20-year-olds are alcohol-related. The use of alcohol is frequently linked with other risky and potentially destructive behaviors, such as physical and emotional violence, sexual mistakes or misjudgments, unintentional injuries such as drownings and falls, and, of course, alcohol overdose. It takes only one such incident to turn what should be an event that is remembered forever as a celebration into a tragedy.

Prom should be celebrated as an alcohol- and substance-free event, which takes the combined effort of schools, parents, law-enforcement officials, other members of the local community, and, of course, the students.

Friends can help keep each other safe by Pledging to make healthy decisions. Support your friends by speaking up when you see them making questionable choices, especially where drugs and alcohol are involved.

Click HERE to read some stories of safe and successful proms from students who are left with great memories.

Your school’s drug and alcohol policy needs to be clear, relevant, understood by the school community, and uniformly enforced. If it isn’t, you should discuss this with the School Administration. A guide to reviewing your school’s drug and alcohol policy, along with templates, planning guides, and other resources, can be found in the Think About It … Prom & Graduation Season campaign. Here are some questions to think about and get you started.

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Parents and guardians play a key role in creating a safe prom event. Listed below are tips and ideas for parents. Brainstorm ideas about how you can inform parents of these ideas most effectively. For templates and suggestions, see the Think About It … Prom & Graduation Season campaign.

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Local Community
Prom involves other members of the community, and they can have an influence, for example, on availability of alcohol. Brainstorm with your chapter and advisor to determine whom in your community you should approach and the best way to do so. Templates of letters and sample media releases can be found in the Think About It … Prom & Graduation Season campaign.

Here are some tips and ideas to get you started.

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It’s the students who make the most difference. The best way to get your message across and help friends stay safe for prom is to involve them. Here are some of the things you can do to involve and educate students. More on these ideas can be found in the Think About It … Prom & Graduation Season campaign.

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Student Success Stories
As I look back at my high school experiences, I can say that my senior prom was one of my most memorable. I asked my high school sweetheart out and she said yes. But I wasn’t thinking about just us in anticipation of that night. I wanted to be sure that all of my friends would have a good time – and get home safely. There were going to be several after-prom parties going on that night – parties that would involve alcohol, strangers, and drugs … and the possibility for everything to go wrong. I didn’t want my friends to go to any of those parties, so I came up with a plan. I knew from being a part of SADD that prom night could be fun, special, and substance-free. I decided to throw a great party at my house, where adults would be there to supervise and where my friends could have fun and be safe.

It may surprise you, but the majority of American teens don’t drink. When you or your friends feel pressured to drink because you feel that everyone is doing it, just remember that when you say “No” you are not alone. SADD, Students Against Destructive Decisions, promotes peer-to-peer education and support. This prom season, thousands of SADD students like me nationwide will be encouraging their friends to make healthy and safe decisions. What about your friends? Will you make sure they are careful? It’s up to you to stand up and tell your friends not to drink and to remind them to never get in the car with an impaired driver.

Remember: it’s up to you to be a powerful positive influence. Chances are your friends will listen.

The substance-free party I threw after the dance was a big hit. We had chocolate fountains, a catered buffet, and even a DJ. Some say that it was even better than the prom. The evening was perfect, and my friends and I will share those memories forever. Prom is a once-in-a-lifetime event – one that can and should be celebrated substance-free. Stay safe and look out for your friends, and you will create your own special memories on prom night.

Daniel Vocelle
Printed in Spring 2007 issue of Pageantry magazine.


The Meade County High School SADD chapter in Brandenburg, Kentucky, took some chapter funds and donations and set up tables in the bathrooms. In the women's restroom was a table with bobby pins, lotion, makeup samples, hairspray, sample deodorants, combs, tissues, etc. The men's restroom had gel, tissues, combs, mints, gum, etc. On each table were brochures about MCHS SADD and a statistics sheet about dangers while at prom parties. It also included the number of our local taxi company in case students found themselves in an uncomfortable situation or needed a ride home. 

Timi LaTondress


My senior year I started the Montcalm High School "Keep Your Face in Shape!” Campaign. When Prom Promises were signed during prom week, signs were put up with deformed colorful faces on them. The images were supposed to represent victims of drunk driving collisions. When the Prom Promises were signed, each person who participated received a squishy ball with faces on them. (These can be purchased from party supplies magazines). The balls were left in the package and a warning was attached that alerted the participants how their face could be changed. "Keep Your Face in Shape!” Campaign – this is truly a tradition that will last for awhile!

Joshua Helmondollar


At Lower Merion High School, prom is a student's favorite time of the year; however, it can also be the most dangerous time. At too many schools around the country, students get hurt or even killed on their way to or from prom because they were under the influence. At one of the regular dances during the school year, kids were found to have been drinking and some were even throwing up in the bathroom. It was time for a change. Parents and SADD members advocated for something to be done to keep the students safe. The administration, along with the SADD members and parents, came up with a Breathalyzer policy whereby all students who came to prom would be required to take a Breathalyzer at the door. The students were made aware of this in advance, so the Breathalyzer acted as a deterrent to drinking for students, because they knew that the punishment would be prohibition from walking at graduation. The Breathalyzer also kept students off the streets, because if students were found to be under the influence, they would be released only to their parents. All in all, 496 students entered the prom and 496 students passed the Breathalyzer test, without a trace of alcohol in their system. This policy ensured that the students were safe and had a great time without the influence of alcohol.

Andrew Karasik


Principles of Substance Abuse Prevention: Guide to Science-Based Practices 3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Division of Knowledge Development and Evaluation.

Preventing Drug Use among Children and Adolescents: A Research-Based Guide for Parents, Educators, and Community Leaders. Copies of this guide can be obtained free of charge from the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI) at 1-800-729-6686 or by down load

Shattering the Myth of Inevitability Teens Today, 2001. SADD/Liberty Mutual study

Neurobehavioral Performance of Residents after Heavy Night Call vs. After Alcohol Ingestion Journal of the American Medical Association, September 7, 2005; 294: 1025 - 1033.

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