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Make prom night a lifetime memory, not a night in jail
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Dear Editor,

Our current high school generation has grown up with video cameras as a part of their lives. It began with Mom and Dad capturing videos of our family-firsts. Their first steps, first soccer practice and first little league game; memorable birthdays, vacations, and holidays — all captured on video. Today, many teens carry cell phones that can capture videos that can easily end up on YouTube.

As this generation was growing up, video also became a primary tool used in enforcement of Georgia’s laws against drunk or impaired driving. Every Georgia State Patrol car and many local law enforcement agencies now use in-car cameras to record police pursuits and routine arrests.

During this spring prom season, some Georgia teens are going to find themselves in a video that they hope their friends won’t see. Clad in their fancy tuxedos or sequined gowns, they’ll be asked to submit to a field sobriety test. This involves doing tasks like walking a straight line or standing on one leg.

The inability to do as directed is an indication that the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Driving under the influence endangers the lives of everyone on the road, including the violator. Georgia law enforcement agencies take this seriously. Being charged with DUI is nothing like getting a speeding ticket.

Offenders are handcuffed and placed in a patrol car. They’re taken to jail, where they will be fingerprinted and photographed for a mug shot that becomes a part of their permanent criminal record. In many cases, their cars are impounded at considerable cost.

Even in the middle of the night, any underage passengers in the car will have to call a parent to come pick them up, either at the site of the arrest or at the jail.

And the offender will most likely spend the next 24 hours in jail before he or she is allowed to post bond and be released.

For high school seniors, a conviction for DUI now could affect your college acceptance this year, or your ability to obtain or keep certain jobs later.

If you’re a parent, remind your high school-age student that this is serious business — this is something that will follow them for many years to come.

If you’re a student, think about the personal consequences. Not only can you lose your license to drive, but when you finally get it reinstated after months of DUI classes and red tape, the cost of your car insurance will be out of sight. You may have to trade that shiny cool car for an older clunker just to get lower insurance rates and get back on the road.

So, which video do you want your friends to see and remember: The one with you and your date having tons of fun at the prom — or the one with you stumbling on a highway shoulder, trying to put one drunken foot in front of the other?

Georgia law enforcement officers do not take joy in arresting teenagers. Many of them are parents themselves and do not want to make another telephone call to another parent asking them to come to a nearby jail.

But their goal every day is to keep Georgia highways safe for everyone. Getting drunk or impaired drivers off the road is a key part of that task.

Let’s make their job easier and your prom safer.  Underage drinking is not a rite of passage. It’s against the law and it’s wrong on the highway.  Make prom night a night to remember, not a night in jail. For more information on how to make prom season a safe and sober one, visit the TEAM Georgia Web site at

Harris Blackwood
Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety