ST. PETERSBURG, FL – There’s a reasons why parents pace the floor all night and bite their nails after sending their sons and daughters off to their senior proms.
Accidents are the No. 1 cause of death for teens age 12 to 19. And car crashes are the most common reason for the accidental deaths of teens.
Statistics show roughly a third of alcohol-related teen traffic fatalities occur between April and June, the peak of prom season.
To remind students of the dangers of drinking and driving on the night of their senior proms, Pinellas County law enforcement agencies staged realistic-looking mock DUI wrecks as part of a program called Prom Promise.
The Clearwater Fire & Rescue Department and Clearwater Police Department staged a mock DUI wreck on the football fields of Countryside High School and Clearwater High School students, complete with mangled vehicles and bloodied students.
Members of the Students Against Drunk Driving and drama clubs played the parts of dead and injured students while personnel from Bayflite, the Suncoast Safety Council, Clearwater Towing, Sunstar Paramedics, Dobies Funeral Home and and Pinellas Auto Body helped stage the crash scenarios.
In addition, Ginger Brengle was on hand to share her heart-wrenching personal story of how a drunk driver shattered her family.
Brengle, a librarian at Pinellas Park High School, detailed how her cousin’s husband and their three sons, ages 28, 24 and 19, were killed at the intersection of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street and 22nd Avenue in 2010. The driver who hit them was going over 90 mph. He was drunk and high.
St. Petersburg Fire Rescue and St. Petersburg Police gave the students at St. Petersburg Catholic High School, 6333 9th Ave. N., a similar lesson on the dangers of driving while impaired or distracted.
Several SPC High School students performed a skit for their peers to demonstrate how the decision to text and drive on prom night, or any night, could drastically impact their lives or the lives of those they care about.
Then first responders showed students what happens at a fatal crash scene. Student actors participated in a mock crash on the school’s football field, giving 600 fellow students a preview of the tragic consequences of driving impaired or distracted. Helping to set the scene were representatives from Bayfront Health, Lawson Funeral Home and Tri -J Towing.
According to an AAA survey, 41 percent of teens age 16 to 19 said it was likely they or their friends would use alcohol or drugs on prom night.
Law enforcement is hoping the mock crashes will make students think twice.
Here are some more sobering statistics about prom night:
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 300 teens have died in alcohol-related traffic accidents during prom weekends over the past several years. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, every year 1,415 people under age 21 die from alcohol-related crashes. Even a small amount of alcohol can affect driving ability — 1,764 people were killed in 2014 in alcohol-related crashes where the driver’s blood-alcohol level (BAC) was less than 0.08. Drivers who mix alcohol and marijuana greatly increase their chance of an accident because marijuana and alcohol together have "multiplicative effects" on impairment. More than 85 percent of teens say they or their peers are likely to drive impaired instead of calling their parents for help because they are afraid of getting in trouble. Just 21 percent of teens have called their parents to pick them up because they or their driver was impaired.
Images via Clearwater and St. Petersburg police departments