About 50 high school students from all over metropolitan Baltimore gathered at the Hyatt Regency in the Inner Harbor last night to kick off the annual campaign to keep their prom nights safe and sober.
The students will distribute thousands of Operation Prom pledge forms to classmates, asking them to make a written commitment not to drink and drive during prom and graduation season. The students' parents also must sign the contracts.
Last year more than 15,000 families participated in Operation Prom, which is sponsored by WBFF-TV and Baltimore-area Pontiac dealers.
Students who participate become eligible to win a 1991 Pontiac LeMans. The sponsors also give $1,000 awards to the high schools in Baltimore and the five surrounding counties that have the highest proportion of students signing the pledges.
D. F. Lane, an assistant principal at Overlea High School, said he thinks the pledges discourage students from driving under the influence even if they choose to drink. Once they've signed the pledge, it makes it easier to resist peer pressure to drink and drive.
"It's a corporate effort to create a consciousness that these kids need," Mr. Lane said. "It's a brilliant little ploy."
Last year 67 percent of Overlea's 1,040 students signed the pledge -- the highest percentage of any school in Baltimore County. But their supremacy will be challenged this year by students at Perry Hall High School, where senior Karen Zachary will lead the campaign.
Miss Zachary, president of the school's Students Against Drunk Driving chapter, said the pledges force students to focus on the dangers of drinking and driving. Many don't realize how little alcohol it takes to impair their driving.
"People think they're not drunk, and they've had three beers," she said.
The pledges, she said, encourage students to consider a safe method of transportation.
"Sometimes this will make people get a limo," Miss Zachary said.