SEATTLE – For many teens past and present, a high-school prom is a significant milestone celebrated with dinner, dancing and, according to the latest poll results from PEMCO Insurance, underage drinking.
The PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll found that more than one-third (37 percent) of Washington and Portland, Ore., residents who attended a prom in years past admit to drinking or partying that night. A vast majority – nearly four out of five respondents – say that a teen driver was behind the wheel that night, as well.
According to the poll, of those who attended a prom, 79 percent report that they or a friend were responsible for driving. The poll also revealed that in Washington, 38 percent of prom-goers attended a party where alcohol was available, and 20 percent admit to drinking on prom night whether at a party or not. In Oregon, 29 percent attended a party where alcohol was available, and 18 percent said they drank on prom night.
“Statistics like those lead us to believe that some teens are drinking and driving on prom night. The bottom line is that teens already have higher accident rates than adults because of driving inexperience, and drinking compounds the problem,”said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg. “Not to mention that it’s illegal.”
Prom night is already distracting for teen drivers, even without alcohol. Nerves, excitement, and driving in a fancy tux while wearing stiff, unfamiliar shoes, or driving in a dress and heels, is something for teens to adjust to, Osterberg added. Studies also show that teen drivers become more distracted – and crash more – with each additional teen passenger.
PEMCO has long suggested that footing the bill for a limo or town car can heighten teen safety on prom night.
“Whether parents pay for the limo or teens split the costs among themselves, a limo can be a glamorous way to go, and it eliminates the risk of drinking and driving,”Osterberg said.
PEMCO found just one in 10 respondents said they hired a professional driver, and very few relied on their parents for transportation to the festivities.
Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirms the dangers of underage drinking – more than one-third of youth under age 21 who were killed in alcohol-related fatalities in this millennium died during April, May and June, the peak of prom and graduation season.
The grim data doesn’t stop there. The Washington State Liquor Control Board, which tracks underage drinking trends, this year reported that motor-vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among youth ages 15 to 20, and that the rate of fatal crashes among alcohol-consuming drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 is more than twice the rate for drivers 21 and older who were drinking and driving.
And yet, a significant number of adults in the Northwest – about 43 percent – think parents should trust their teens to police their own drinking, or even allow it in a controlled environment.
While about half (51 percent) of respondents in Washington and Oregon do think parents should forbid their teens from attending parties where alcohol is available, about one-fifth (22 percent) think parents should trust their kids to refrain from drinking, and another 20 percent think parents should tolerate drinking as long as it’s chaperoned.
Parents, to no surprise, are more adamant about enforcing drinking-age rules than adults without children. In Portland, those without children are twice as likely as their counterparts to say that parents should allow occasional drinking when no one will be driving.
In Washington, about an equal number of parents and people without children say that parents should forbid their kids from attending parties where alcohol is available.
To learn more about the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll and to view a summary of the results, visit www.pemco.com/poll, where the public is invited to participate in an informal version of the poll and see how their own responses compare with those collected by FBK Research of Seattle in November 2013.
About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll
PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington and Oregon residents several questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 600 respondents in Washington and 400 respondents in the Portland, Ore., metro area, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.1 percent and +/- 5.0 percent respectively at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study were conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than the associated error range.
About PEMCO Insurance
PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, and umbrella insurance to Northwest residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold to consumers by the method they choose – phone, local community agents, or online. PEMCO ranks “Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Auto Insurers in the Northwest Region” according to J.D. Power. For more information, visit www.pemco.com.