While many high school students prepare end the school year with a bang, school administrators and law enforcement officers are hoping students make safe decisions.
Columbia County Sheriff's Department Capt. Steve Morris said statistics show underage drinking rises sharply around prom time.
"Basically because of all the parties that take place in a short period of time," he said.
To keep pace, schools will be hosting various events leading up to proms and graduations aimed at showing students the perils of driving while intoxicated.
At Harlem High School, Students Against Destructive Decisions offered up information on driving drunk the entire week leading up to Friday's prom.
On Wednesday, Columbia County Sheriff's Department Deputies were patrolling the Harlem High parking lot looking for students who were wearing seat belts.
Deputies handed out pamphlets to all drivers and gift certificates to those wearing seat belts. Deputies said close to 90 percent of the students they talked to were in compliance.
But it's that 10 percent they wanted to reach.
"I had one who didn't wasn't wearing her seat belt because it was uncomfortable," said Deputy Wesley Mack. "Had we not been here, she would have got on the road without it on."
On Thursday, school officials allowed any student with a prom ticket and driver's license to attempt to operate a golf cart while wearing goggles designed to simulate what it feels like to drive drunk.
"The students had fun with that," said Harlem High School Officer Buddy Hendry. "But at the same time they were able to see how helpless they can be while driving drunk."
At Lakeside, school officials are planning similar events. Lakeside High School Public Safety Officer Roxanne Matthys said she will be making a presentation to her students that will eulogize students who have died in alcohol related deaths.
"I want them to know driving drunk is a very real thing," Matthys said.
Matthys said though some students still drink at parties and get drunk, the majority of them will make sure to have a safe way to get home.
For law enforcement officers, getting the students home safe is priority one Mack said that's why he and his fellow officers plan to make appearances at other county schools and that's why they are giving away free food.
For those students who choose to ignore the warnings, the penalties can be significant.
"They will lose their license and could lose their freedom," Morris said. "Even worse, they could lose their life."
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