How To Prevent Prom Night Car Accidents

For many students, prom night is a rite of passage representing the transition from childhood to adulthood. Graduating seniors and their friends make memories that will last a lifetime, but the recollection will be horrific for an unfortunate few.

In the United States, the fatal crash rate per mile for 16- to 19-year-olds is nearly 3 times that of drivers over 20 years old. On prom night, perhaps more teenagers are on the road than at any other time of the year.

At Judd Shaw Injury Law, our attorneys realize that if we take active measures, we can prevent some tragedies. Please join us as we consider how to stay safe on prom night.

Recognize the Dangers of Drugs and Alcohol

The legal drinking age in the United States is 21 years old, with a few exceptions in some states for:

  • Religious ceremonies
  • Medical purposes
  • Private residences
  • Supervision of a parent, guardian, or spouse who is of legal drinking age

In New Jersey, if an underage individual is caught with alcohol or marijuana, he or she could face the following consequences:

  • First Offense: The individual receives a written warning
  • Second Offense: The individual might receive another written warning and information about accessing community services
  • Third or Subsequent Offenses: The individual may be referred to community services (e.g. counseling, tutoring, mentoring, faith-based, or other initiatives)

If the underage individual does not accept treatment or assistance, his or her decision “shall not result in any summons, complaint, or legal action to be enforced in court.” Since some youths drink illegally despite the restrictions, those who care about them do well to teach them how alcohol and drugs affect their ability to drive and the penalties for driving under the influence (DUI) in New Jersey.

Impaired brain activity

Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, reducing neural activity in the parts of the brain responsible for skilled performance. A 2021 research study states: “As aspects of driving are complex, [higher-level behaviors] that require a combination of perceptual, cognitive and psychomotor skills, it is not surprising that alcohol consumption results in impairments to several neurocognitive processes required for safe driving.”

Alcohol can negatively affect:

  • Attention: The ability to concentrate on specific information while ignoring other stimuli, maintaining focus, and processing multiple sources of input simultaneously
  • Executive function: Cognitive processes used in planning, remembering instructions, solving problems, juggling multiple tasks at the same time, adapting to sudden changes in conditions, controlling impulses, and resisting distractions
  • Vigilance: Alertness over prolonged periods, allowing the driver to detect infrequent or unpredictable events such as changing weather conditions, sudden road obstacles, and sudden braking or lane-changing by other vehicles
  • Reaction time: The time needed to notice, process, and respond to a stimulus

What about drugs? The following section will reveal how controlled substances can affect your driving skills.

Health conditions and adverse reactions

Drugs can impair a person’s ability to drive safely by causing various symptoms and adverse reactions. Consider the following drugs and their effects:

  • Cocaine: Overconfidence and increased risk tolerance followed by fatigue, exhaustion, impairment in visuospatial perception, and tremors
  • Amphetamines (MDMA or ecstasy): Convulsions, reduced coordination, mood swings, psychotic symptoms, aggressive behavior, and suicidal tendencies
  • Cannabis: Cognitive impairment, reduced hand-to-eye coordination, drowsiness, memory and balance issues, loss of contact with reality
  • Opioids (e.g., morphine, fentanyl, heroin, tramadol): Dizziness, nausea, sedation, mental-clouding effects, impaired vision, slowed response times, memory problems

If you are under 21, you can be convicted for violating New Jersey’s drinking laws if your blood alcohol content is as low as 0.01 if you are a repeat offender. A conviction could lead to the loss of driving privileges, mandatory community service, and referral to an alcohol and traffic safety education program. Even having open containers of alcohol in the car could lead to hundreds of dollars in fines.

Understanding the potential effects helps ensure the safety of everyone sharing our roadways. If

parents discuss the risks; their children might be less likely to experiment with illicit substances.

Pay Attention to Your Responsibilities

Driving with care protects you, your passengers, and fellow road users. Taking the task of driving seriously can significantly reduce the risk of prom night car accidents.

Don’t take your attention off your mission

Though high school dances are a time to celebrate, students should always remember that their futures are more important than one fun night. They can only experience everything they look forward to if they safeguard their health and well-being.

Whether texting, taking selfies, or playing around with friends, taking your eyes off the road, even for a moment, can lead to devastating consequences. Over 3,522 people were killed in distracted-related crashes in 2021. This sobering number included 225 teens between the ages of 15 and 19.

“Buckle up for safety, every trip, every time”

This slogan emphasizes the need for everyone in the car to wear their safety belts. In a study analyzed in a 2020 journal article, statistics revealed that 43 percent of those who died in passenger vehicle accidents in one year were not wearing their seatbelts.

That’s why you should remember to take charge of your own safety. Even if you are a good driver, you cannot account for other motorists, so it is always best to buckle up.

Resist the urge to drive fatigued

Partying the night away can be fun, but staying out late could mean you are too sleepy to drive when it is time to go home.

Rather than drive while you are tired, consider these alternatives:

  • Plan for a well-rested family member or friend to pick you up
  • Call a taxi
  • Use a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft
  • Stay overnight at a trusted friend’s house
  • Use public transportation

Ideally, prom-goers would reflect on how every decision they make behind the wheel impacts not just their own life but also the lives of their friends and family. If that were the case, then more might choose to celebrate, drive, and ride responsibly.

What to Do If Catastrophe Strikes

What if the worst happens? What if you or your loved one gets injured in a motor vehicle accident on prom night?

Rely on the experienced attorneys of Judd Shaw Injury Law. When our clients are in despair, we spring into action, using our resources and expertise to protect your rights.

You must have questions. Our team is ready to let you know whether you qualify for personal injury compensation and how you can maximize your settlement. Contact us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at (866) 909-6894 to schedule your free consultation. We can give you the answers you seek. 

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Content edited by personal injury attorney Judd Shaw. From the beginning, Judd established a set of Core Values laying out the pursuit for excellence in client service. He is a regular host of the Working The Wow podcast, with the belief that providing an exceptional client experience is just as important as delivering a quality service or product. You can find us in Red Bank and Tom‘s River, New Jersey.