Real Talk     Hot Topics     K-12    

Prom & grad parties:



Keeping safe choices under your control

safety during graduation season


As the school year winds down, prom and graduation parties get planned. While it’s an exciting time of year, part of the party planning must be a conversation with your teen about impaired driving and safe choices.  As a parent, it is important that you understand your exposure to financial liability for events that occur both on your property and after a guest leaves, as well as the ramifications for your child should they engage in underage impaired driving.

 

Underage Drinking & Driving

 

Since the 1980s, most states introduced zero tolerance laws due to an increase in accidents and deaths relating to teen drinking and driving. A driver under 21 years of age can be arrested for Operating a Motor Vehicle After Having Consumed Alcohol (New York State VTL § 1192-a) after just one drink (0.02 % compared to 0.07 % for an adult). An adjudication results in a six (6) month suspension of your New York driver’s license/privilege. A “Zero Tolerance” disposition is a civil administrative proceeding handled by a Department of Motor Vehicles Hearing Officer.  If the underage driver’s Blood Alcohol Content is 0.07% or higher, the matter is handled in the local criminal court and a conviction results in a one-year license revocation.    

 

Possible punishments for underage drinking and driving often include community service and prevention education classes.  If the driver injures or kills someone in an accident, however, they face a felony charge and jail time. While some think the laws are overly strict, zero-tolerance laws have proven to be an effective sanction for minors. Since being implemented, the rate of teenage deaths and injuries in automobile accidents has gone down. Alcohol-related automobile accidents are higher for drivers between the ages of 16-20 than it is for adults over the age of 21.

 

Outside of criminal and civil penalties, teens convicted of a Misdemeanor Driving While Intoxicated or Impaired by Drugs MUST disclose this on their college applications. A criminal conviction can affect admission to college programs, financial aid, and certain post graduate licensing requirements.  In this competitive economy, a criminal conviction will likely prevent an employer from hiring you over another candidate.  Incarceration can lead to termination of employment and loss of student housing. 

 

When you plan which party you are going to, part of the plan has to be how will I get home. The ramifications for consuming alcohol or drugs and then driving is simply not worth it.

 

Hosting a graduation or summer party for your teen

Parents choose to host their child’s party at home for a variety of reasons. Typically, convenience is the main reason. Some parents believe that they can monitor safety and maintain control by taking the car keys from all the kids when alcohol for adults is offered at these parties. Given the eclectic mix of family and friends, it is near impossible to monitor who has access to the alcohol. Even hosting a “dry” event does not protect you if you become aware that kids brought alcohol to your home.

If someone gets accidentally injured or worse, physically or sexually assaulted by someone at your party, you can be liable. Claiming they were not invited will not save you either. Even if an incident occurs at another location, you can potentially be financially liable for damages if they left your home impaired by alcohol or drugs.  Talk to your insurance agent about your policy limits before you take on the risk of a home party.  Make sure to have a family plan in place to protect your greatest asset – your home.    

Even those of us with “good” kids can end up in a situation that quickly grows out of control when half the school class suddenly shows up at your party as they make the rounds around town. From the teen who jumps from the second story into the pool and injures himself or others, to the fatal car crash that occurs after a driver leaves your house, and everything in between, hosting a party makes you responsible for everyone and everything at your home.

Jessica Segal of SRDD Law implores us to talk openly with your teen about the risks and consequences the entire family faces. Ask family and friends to take turns watching teen guests for signs of alcohol or drug consumption. Don’t be afraid to call a teen’s parents if you become aware they are under the influence – being the “cool parent” doesn’t save lives. Getting ‘grounded’ is much better than ending up in the middle of a multi-million-dollar lawsuit or dead.

 

Jessica Segal is an attorney at Stenger, Roberts, Davis & Diamond, LLP (SRDD Law). She has been practicing law for 18 years. She spent 17 years at the Dutchess County District Attorney’s office where she prosecuted all levels of crime. 

Jessica is a volunteer member of the Council on Addiction Prevention & Education of Dutchess County and speaks to high school students and their parents at the annual Teen Driving Program.



More Real Talk


  • How to prevent cyberbullying with technology

    Who is at risk and what you can do

    Cyberbullying is becoming more prevalent among children and teens, as young people now spend more time on phones, computers and digital devices. About 6 in 10 teens have been bullied or harassed online, according to Pew Research Center. read more »
  • Teenage Period Cramps

    How much pain alerts to medical conditions?

    More often than not prevailing period stigma holds adolescents back from expressing concerns about severe menstrual pains. Experts say that debilitating cramps are not normal and might be caused by underlying medical problems like endometriosis. read more »
  • Mother Shares Her Journey with Heroin-Addicted Daughter

    Read the gripping new book about this family

    September is National Recovery Month and one mom has shared her journey with her daughter struggling with addiction. read more »
  • Learn How to Help Your Struggling Adolescents Navigate Change and Overcome Anxiety

    Parenting expert Erica Komisar has a new book that can assist you

    Adolescence is a notoriously complicated time for kids as well as their parents. Plus, the epidemic of mental health disorders in young people has made parenting today even more challenging. But it’s not too late. Parents of adolescents can still have a profound impact on the health and well-being of their children. read more »
  • How to help high-achieving students manage stress

    Tips and insight for parents

    School administrators at Howard County Public Schools (HCPS) in Maryland were surprised to learn that high-achieving students wanted to get rid of class rank—a measure of student success that weighs higher-level classes differently when calculating grade point average. The class ranking system created an unnecessary burden, students said, and discouraged them from taking the classes they really wanted. read more »
  • Tips to keep your teen active in lockdown

    Physical activity is more crucial than ever

    Wintertime isolation during Covid makes physical activity even more of a challenge, but it’s important for everyone, especially teens, to get the blood flowing, here are some helpful tips. read more »
  • Best uses of downtime for teens

    Does your teen feel better after downtime or worse?

    All downtime is not created equal. Some is more restorative, some not so much. Learn how you can help your teen rest well. read more »
  • Teen attitude blues

    Why is my teen depressed and what can I do about it?

    The teen years can be distinctly difficult for a variety of reasons, particularly if your teen has a bad attitude. Here are some ways you can better understand and help your teen. read more »
  • How mindfulness can help your stressed teen

    Everyone take a deep breath. You all will feel better

    Teens report more stress than adults, a fact that will surprise no one. This article includes some helpful ways to cope. read more »
  • How do I know what boundaries to set for my teen

    Definitely not easy to pick your battles

    Teens are hardwired to test limits. This article includes some helpful tips on how best to meet the challenges or to let things go. read more »