EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) — It’s the season of high school proms and graduations. With celebrations right around the corner, some state officials are warning of the risk of drinking and driving. One state agency is investing money into local schools in an effort to prevent tragedy.
The Texas Department of Transportation is investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into schools statewide as part of “Project Celebration.”
"If we save one senior, then it was worth the effort across the state,” said Monica O'Kane, a traffic safety specialist with TxDOT.
The program offers reimbursements to high schools who host events without drugs or alcohol.
There are 18 Borderland schools that will receive $750 each this year. The El Paso Independent School District has the most schools represented and the district will receive a total of $,9000.
"A lot of the time, they'll be looking to go party after graduation or after prom,” O’Kane said. “We’re doing something that a school can do for the seniors. One, to show them the appreciation, but number two, to keep them safe to not have them out on the roads."
The program has been going on for years, but was paused last year due to the pandemic. It relaunched this year with a new set of rules to accommodate for Covid-19.
While all events must be in person, districts must follow local laws on social distancing. Events this year can take place at any time of day and no longer require a “lock-in” in which seniors are kept on campus overnight to prevent them from driving home.
TxDOT reports there were 990 deadly alcohol-related crashes on Texas roadways last year.
O’Kane said it is hard to measure the impact the Project Celebration events have on statistics.
“We don't see that something could have happened tonight if we hadn't done these for the kids, but that's okay,” she said.
Applications for funding are closed, but school districts can contact TxDOT to be notified when applications open next year.