Prom, graduation season among deadliest

Loyola’s Collins C. Diboll Art Gallery (New Orleans)Through May 11
April 21, 2008
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April 23, 2008

April and May mark high school prom and graduation season for many high schools, but the two months are also among the deadliest for motorists, according to the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission.

In May 2006, a total of 91 people were killed in automobile crashes in Louisiana, making the month that typically marks high school graduations the second deadliest of the year.

April is when many high school proms occur, but in 2006 the month was the fourth deadliest for motorists, with 87 deaths. More than half of highway deaths in April and May 2006 were caused by crashes involving alcohol, said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, commission executive director.

“High school proms are exciting for teen-aged students and their parents, and high school graduations are truly significant events,” LeBlanc said. “A lot of celebration surrounds these events, but they can end in tragedy when drinking and driving and other dangerous activities come into play.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Adminis-tration, vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens. In 2006, a total of 74 drivers ages 15 to 20 were killed in non-pedestrian vehicle crashes in Louisiana, representing almost 11 percent of drivers killed statewide. Thirty-one alcohol-related fatal crashes in 2006 in Louisiana involved drivers in this age group.

A recent study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine also confirmed that vehicle crashes contribute to the most teen deaths, and cited failure to buckle up, inexperience, speeding and riding with other teens as key factors in crash fatalities involving teenagers.

LeBlanc said close parental supervision, education, alcohol-free parties and enforcement by police and sheriffs’ departments can sharply reduce the number of fatal crashes during prom and graduation seasons.

“Teens should be reminded that 21 is the legal drinking age in Louisiana, and taught to not drink and drive, ride in a vehicle being driven by someone who is intoxicated, or engage in risky behavior such as speeding,” LeBlanc said. “Peer pressure has a strong influence on the actions of teens, but so do the words and actions of adults such as parents and teachers.”