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Tips for safer homecoming outcomes

If you are the parent of a Wallingford teen, chances are good that you are already aware of the major social event that is looming on your child's high school horizon — homecoming.

This time-honored autumn tradition is writ large for students in both high school and college. Traditions deserve to be honored, but never at the price of the students' safety. As it turns out, homecoming season can be a dangerous time for teenagers.

Drunk driving a heightened risk on homecoming

Statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that automobile collisions remain the No. 1 cause of death for American teenagers. That doesn't mean that parents should begin banning the festivities out of fear, however.

Instead, they can focus on communicating ways that teens can make safer decisions during homecoming, and always. Below are some helpful tips.

  • If your teen will be driving, make sure that he or she is familiar with the route. The night of the dance should not be the first time driving unfamiliar roads to pick up dates and go to restaurants. Make sure that they do at least one dry run after dark.
  • Don't let your son or daughter leave without a fully-charged cellphone, charger and "mad money" for emergencies. Establish a code word to say or text if an emergency ride is needed.
  • Set reasonable curfews. Only you know how responsible your child truly is. It's been said that "nothing good happens after midnight," but given driving times and the typical wait at restaurants on busy nights, your teen's curfew might need to be tweaked to reflect that.
  • Make sure your child knows not to drink and drive or ride with those who do. Peer pressure is strong during the teen years, so counteract it by strong parental oversight.

Keep kids engaged and active

Some schools and parents plan elaborate after-parties to discourage kids from breaking off into unsupervised cliques where underage drinking might occur. If the shindig is at your house or a rental hall with parents chaperoning, you will be the first to know if something is awry.

Afraid your child will die of embarrassment before attending a party you are chaperoning? Make arrangements for a college-age sibling to show up instead.

But my kid isn't going to the dance

Even if your son or daughter shuns the formality of the homecoming dance itself, the activities that lead up to it — spirit rallies, bonfires, the big game — all present opportunities for teens to consume alcohol and become intoxicated.

If your child winds up injured due to the negligence of another teenage driver (or any driver), you will need to take certain actions to preserve their legal right to pursue compensation for their medical bills and other damages.

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