Prom images, beyond the corsage

In the past week or so, I've driven by an arresting sight intended to signal that a certain season is upon us. Right next to the fields where my kids play soccer, and directly in front of my town's new high school, is a prom-time display no one could savor: a badly crashed car, framed by police barriers.

It's not unusual at this time of year to see glamorously clad couples posing under blossoming spring trees for prom shots. And as long as you don't think too much about the massive amounts of money typically lavished on the affair, it's a sentimental scene that often prompts musings, happy or otherwise, on that turning point called graduation.

My friends and I tend to marvel at how adult all these kids look. But that scene outside the high school is intended as a grim reminder that good judgment doesn't always accompany the outer appearance of utter sophistication.

While this is the first year my town did this - complete with a dramatic staging of an ambulance arriving on the scene as worried parents rush in - it is not that uncommon. Adults desperate to get the message across about drunk driving are taking an in-your-face approach worthy of the horror movies teens love.

Perhaps students have become so inured to gruesome images that those hoping to keep the prom happy and safe feel they must opt for shock value. Maybe it's not a bad way to tackle kids' "it'll never happen to me" attitude.

Are others as torn as I am about the tactic? You can't miss it; that's the point. But should this be a main image for a prom? How do those who have faced such a tragedy feel to see it set out before them each day? Is it wise, or too graphic? What do you think?

E-mail newcomba@csps.com.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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