Imagine you’re a high school student and prom is fast approaching. You’ve got your checklist set. Date, check. Outfit, check. Dinner reservations, check. All you need are the tickets and one last thing. Your parents need to attend the pre-prom safety presentation.
The pre-prom education program put in place in Putnam County, New York aims to educate parents on prom safety. Individuals from all sectors of the community came together to form the Putnam County Communities That Care (CTC) Coalition. The coalition members share a common goal to educate the community, particularly area youth, about safe driving.
The county, which is situated 50 miles north of New York City, has just under 100,000 residents. The county’s layout makes for easy teen drinking—lots of open spaces in the country where teens can congregate, houses set far apart that make partying hard to detect, and parents who commute and work long hours. So it’s no surprise that the county has a high rate of DWIs. In fact, the 2010 Prevention Needs Assessment Survey revealed that over 61 percent of high school seniors had consumed alcohol in the last 30 days. The coalition was formed to do something about it, and it chose Innocorp, Ltd. and Fatal Vision® as a partner.
Deputy Sheriff Richard Mansfield saw the Innocorp products—particularly SIDNE®—at a conference, and came home with an enthusiastic description of what they could do for Putnam County.
“Several organizations collaborated and donated funds in order to buy these products,” explains Elaine Santos of Drug Free Communities. “The products are interactive and we felt that this type of hands-on activity would really hit home for individuals and groups taking part in the activities. It also fit into the mandated program we have for incoming senior high students.”
This mandated program requires that new seniors experience SIDNE® and other Fatal Vision® prevention tools in order to get on-site school parking privileges. The Putnam County CTC Coalition created Team SIDNE® to offer this program. The team is made up of the director of the Putnam County Mental Health/Youth Bureau Joseph DeMarzo, the Putnam executive director of the National Council on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies, Kristin McConnell, the deputy director of the Putnam County Youth Bureau, Janeen Cunningham, and Santos herself. They join with educators from Putnam Family and Community Services and student resource officers from the Sheriff’s Department. The team does a simulated field sobriety checkpoint, SIDNE® demonstrations, and Distract-A-Match® five times each summer in three-hour training sessions at each of the three large school districts in the county.
“The school gives us a roster,” Janeen Cunningham says. “We make sure they go through the training.”
The prom initiative came from a grassroots effort by concerned parents. Eventually, it came under the auspices of the Putnam County CTC Coalition. The group set a goal of raising awareness of the dangers teens face before, during, and after prom.
In order for teens to be able to purchase tickets to prom, parents must attend the pre-prom presentation. Each school district offers the program two different evenings. The team presenting the program is comprised of judges, lawyers, parents, community leaders, prevention educators, and substance abuse experts.
Use of the SUM It Cup® and intoxiclock® at PTO presentations across the county seems especially effective. “Many parents are shocked by (them),” says Santos. “Oftentimes after a training we are told by parents that they can’t believe that much alcohol in a wine or shot glass actually equals more than a single amount.”
If a parent fails to attend one of the prom presentations, the high schools follow up. The teen in question is given a waiver only if the parent could not come due to serious circumstances. Otherwise, that teen is out of luck.
Parents who attend any of the presentations that use the Fatal Vision® tools often become true believers. “The trainings have become very popular,” says Santos. “Parents tell us in their evaluations that they wish more parents would come see what the Fatal Vision® programs offer.”
But it’s the effect on students that pleases Santos and the Putnam County CTC Coalition most. Students learn the lessons in ways that convince them. The Distract-A-Match® shows them how easy it is to get distracted when driving. SIDNE® convinces them just how quickly they can lose control of a vehicle while impaired. The Fatal Vision® goggles give them firsthand experience of how scary it is to be under the influence.
“(They realize) how much is at stake if they get a DUI/DWI,” Santos concludes.