17:00 PM

Prom and Graduation Season is Deadly for Teen Drivers; AAA Offers Free Program for Schools

AAA urges schools to register for the free AAA PROMise program

AAA is working with schools in Iowa and Minnesota in effort to prevent Prom and Graduation season from turning deadly on the road. The Auto Club Group is launching its annual AAA PROMise program which is an effort to prevent teen substance-impaired driving, as well as distracted driving.

"Prom and Graduation season is a rite-of-passage for teens, many of whom look forward to celebrating with friends where drugs or alcohol may be involved," said Meredith Mitts, spokeswoman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. "This becomes particularly dangerous when the party spills out onto the road. Unfortunately, that combination of impaired and inexperienced drivers often leads to a tragic end. That's why we're offering AAA PROMise, which is a multi-tiered approach at enhancing the safety of teen drivers and everyone else on the roads."

Here's how the AAA PROMise program works:

The teen signs the pledge banner and makes the following promise before celebrating Prom and Graduation:

  • I promise not to drive impaired or distracted.
  • I promise not to let my friends drive impaired or distracted.
  • I promise my parents I will get home safely or call them for help.

By making the AAA PROMise, the teen agrees to openly communicate with his or her parent/guardian regarding a plan for getting home safely on special nights such as Prom and Graduation.

Parents also have an important role to play by making their children feel safe about calling them for help. Parents can PROMise that they will always pick up their teen regardless of the time or location.

How Schools can Participate:

Public and private schools* can participate in this lifesaving program for free by registering at AAA.com/Promise. They will receive a toolkit which includes:

  • Fact Sheets/Resources – Overview of the AAA PROMise program and useful information to make it a success.
  • Pledge Banner – used to gather each student's signature as a commitment to not drive impaired.
  • Drawstring Bags, a AAAPROMise keepsake, and more.

Last year, more than 300 schools participated in the program. The deadline to order is May 31st, 2023.

*Program is not offered within Hennepin County, MN.

Lifechanging Consequences

Driving impaired can carry lifechanging consequences. Teens could lose their academic eligibility, driver's license, even their life or that of their friends. According to the CDC, Teens are more likely than anyone else to be killed in an alcohol-related crash (even though the minimum legal drinking age in every state is 21). In 2020, 19 percent of 15- to 18-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking.

According to a 2022 AAA teen survey, 30% of high school teens report it's likely they or their friends will be under the influence of drugs or alcohol sometime during Prom or Graduation season, and 82% believe their peers are likely to drive impaired instead of calling a parent or guardian for help.

The legal limit for blood alcohol level in drivers is aged 21+ is .08 percent. For drivers younger than 21, it's .02 percent in Iowa. That means teens can be charged with "driving under the influence" after having only one drink. In Minnesota, there is a "not a drop" law, but if found with .08 or more alcohol-concentration level, the regular DWI laws apply instead of the underage consumption while driving offence, meaning the penalties can be even more severe.

Advice for Teen Drivers

  • Pay Attention. Texting and having other passengers in the vehicle can create dangerous distractions for drivers.
  • Slow Down. Speeding is a factor in one-third of all fatal crashes involving teen drivers.
  • Stay Alert. Prom celebrations can carry well into the late hours. Avoid driving drowsy.
  • Buckle Up. Half of young drivers who die in motor vehicle crashes are not wearing their seat belts.
  • Drive Sober. If you become impaired, pass the keys to a sober driver or call your parents for help.

Advice for Parents

  • Hire a ride. Limousines are not just for looks. Consider chipping in on a chauffeur so teens don't have to decide who's driving.
  • Set the Rules. Establish rules for your teen driver which address safe driving habits and the punishment for breaking them. Consider signing a Parent-Teen driving agreement.
  • Open your Home. Encourage your teen to ask friends to spend the night to keep them off the roads.
  • Be the Example. While driving, model the same behavior you expect from your kids when they drive. Your kids are always watching you, even if they don't admit it.