Angela Sugg, a social studies teacher at Mount Hebron High School, had a couple of dummies in her last-period class Thursday afternoon -- and it was difficult for her and her students to keep from laughing.
As Ms. Sugg tried to keep a straight face while discussing U.S. criminal laws, Vince and Larry, a.k.a. the Crash Test Dummies, sat silently in the second row, attracting stares and laughter from the 28 students.
Two students dressed as the seat-belt-promoting TV commercial characters were sitting in on the class to send their peers a serious message about drinking and driving, as part of a national anti-drunken driving campaign known as "Prom Promise."
pTC "The whole point is we're trying to get one person aware of Prom Promise," said senior Min Kim, 18, dressed as Larry, with white gloves, jump suit, mask and face dotted with yellow and black patches. "If we can stop one person from drinking on prom night, it will be successful."
The blue and gray costumes were supplied to the school's Student Government Association (SGA) by the Nationwide Insurance Co. as part of its national Prom Promise campaign, in which students pledge not to use alcohol or drugs, especially on prom night.
The insurance company wants to reduce teen-age fatalities and injuries in drunken driving accidents.
"It's just another reminder . . . not to be a dummy," said Carol Katsampis, an independent agent for Nationwide Insurance who has an office in Ellicott City. She said 87 percent of Mount Hebron's 1,362-member student body have pledged not to drink and drive on prom night.
"If we can save one student from injury or death, we've done what we wanted to do in the community," Ms. Katsampis said.
This is the third year that Howard County high schools have participated in the 5-year-old program. Schools with the most pledges will receive cash and other prizes.
So far this year, seven county high schools have agreed to take part. Each school will hold its own Prom Promise events to illustrate the dangers of drinking and driving, including having mock car crashes and funerals.
The Olive Branch Restaurant in Ellicott City has agreed to be open late April 23, the night of Mount Hebron's prom, the season's first, and to provide free pizza and soda to Prom Promise-pledging students.
Vince, played by junior Chatty Preisinger, 16, said the costume had attracted a lot of attention and some jokes. Laughing, she said someone remarked to her: " 'Oh, you're the dummy!' "
In addition to wearing the dummy costumes throughout the school day Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, Mount Hebron's SGA members made 13 mock wooden tombstones and placed them in front of the school.
Students "see it when they arrive and leave," said Kelly Borowski, a psychology teacher who works with Mount Hebron's SGA. "If anything, we can make them think." She said the school has been fortunate not to have lost a student to drunken driving, but said some teen-agers believe they are invincible.
After leaving Ms. Sugg's class Thursday, Vince and Larry walked the halls, drawing comments and questions from curious students.
Janie Silverman, 16, who made the Prom Promise pledge three weeks ago, said she knows that using drugs can have serious consequences, because a 14-year-old male friend died from a drug overdose two years ago.
She said she appreciated the students' efforts.
"I'm totally against drugs and alcohol because they're dangerous," the junior said.
Hak Kim, 17, said he got the message, too.
"Drinking and driving is dangerous," he said.