LEXINGTON, Mass. — Recently, Michael Jones, the principal of Lexington High School, took a step in hopes of protecting students from the perils of alcohol abuse during the upcoming junior prom, taking place this weekend. Unfortunately, he pointed the finger of blame at the people who are his biggest allies during prom season.
Instead of looking for ways to ensure students would be alcohol free, he demonized the limousine industry, banning the use of private chauffeured transportation for students to school functions. Students will now take trolleys en masse to and from the event.
This move is simply wrongheaded. Car crashes account for 40% of all deaths among 16-to-20-year-olds. Of these, more than a third were caused by drunk driving, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, with the spring formal season being among the most dangerous times of year. As such, the limousine chauffeur stands as one of the most responsible guardians a parent can provide his or her teen during prom.
For every horror story of a young adult killed while trying to drive home from a party during prom season, there are thousands of stories of young men and women arriving home safely thanks to well-trained chauffeurs who make sure their passengers obey the rules set forth by parents. There is no such guarantee with trolleys or whatever transportation these students chose after the official transportation drops them off.
But Dr. Jones, instead of asking to work with local limousine companies to fight this problem, slapped our entire industry in the face.
We, as limousine chauffeurs and operators, are a collection of hard-working, entrepreneurial people. Far from unaccountable corporations with deep pockets, more than 80% of American limousine companies are mom-and-pop operations with only one-to-three cars. Their reputation as responsible, courteous chauffeurs is all they have. It should come as no surprise that for these professionals, the safety of their passengers is priority No. 1.
Personally, I understand Dr. Jones’ concern if not his actions. More than most, limousine operators know that prom night is one of the trickiest events for parents across the U.S. Teenagers looking for a good time will often put themselves at risk of an accident without thinking about the consequences. It is for this reason that chauffeured transportation is so powerful a parenting tool during school events.
A professional chauffeur will pick up his passengers at their homes. He will then drive them everywhere they go that evening with a constant eye on their behavior. This chauffeur should be seen as an ally in the fight against alcohol abuse — not the enemy.
As the president of the National Limousine Association, I work with our more than 2,100 members to help them work with schools and parents to ensure students are staying out of trouble during prom. And the result of these efforts has been a building of trust between limousine companies and schools.
Consider for a minute what you’re hiring when you hire a limousine for your son or daughter. At my firm, Greene Classic Limousine in Atlanta, we require chauffeurs to attend a class on conduct during prom season. They are shown how to detect alcohol in the vehicle, confront teens who don’t obey the rules, and contact parents in case of problems. They must pass a written test on this subject matter. They then sign a pledge along with the teens and parents that they will prevent minors from drinking during prom and are subject to termination if this contract is broken.
Without a policy or enforcement like this, there is no guarantee of safety for your teen.
Now, I’m not implying that the only way to keep students safe during prom is to rent them a limousine. For those on a budget, a parent can play a major role in protecting their children by simply checking up on who will be driving for the evening and keeping close tabs on exactly what their son or daughter’s plans are. The school officials should make every attempt to partner up with the local associations to get their help in educating parents, teens, and schools on how to pick a reliable, responsible, and safe company to handle the most precious cargo there is, their children.
My point is more that the limousine industry is a partner in this effort to keep alcohol and drugs from spoiling these joyful times in young peoples’ lives. And by kicking us out of the equation, Lexington High School and Dr. Jones have taken a step backward in their effort to keep their students safe. I encourage Dr. Jones to meet with the directors of the New England Livery Association (NELA) to work together to accomplish what are ultimately the same goals.
-Jeff Greene, NLA president
Source: Lexington (Mass.) Minuteman