A study conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) says that one in five teen drivers report they have driven under the influence of marijuana. The national study of nearly 2,300 11th and 12th graders, also found that 30 percent of the teens surveyed don’t consider marijuana use as a driving distraction.
Being under the influence of marijuana is more prevalent among teen drivers than alcohol, as compared to the 13 percent of teens surveyed who report they have driven after drinking. “Marijuana affects memory, judgment, and perception and can lead to poor decisions when a teen under the influence of this or other drugs gets behind the wheel of a car,” said Stephen Wallace, Senior Advisor for Policy, Research, and Education at SADD, in a news release. “What keeps me up at night is this data reflects a dangerous trend toward the acceptance of marijuana and other substances compared to our study of teens conducted just two years ago.” In that study, Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD found that 78 percent of teens were at the other end of the spectrum, characterizing marijuana use as “very” or “extremely” distracting to their driving.
Friends do play a significant role, as most teen drivers say they would stop driving under the influence of marijuana (90 percent) or alcohol (94 percent) if asked by their passengers. Yet even teen passengers are seemingly less concerned about riding in a car with a driver who has used marijuana than with one who has used alcohol. While a significant majority (87 percent) of teen passengers would speak up and ask the driver to refrain from getting behind the wheel after drinking, only 72 percent of teen passengers would do the same for a driver who has used marijuana. And the study found that girls are far more likely to speak to the driver than boys in either circumstance.
It takes only one car crash to change lives forever—far too many young people still die in alcohol and drug-related traffic deaths. Drug abuse is always unhealthy, unsafe, and unacceptable—and the problem becomes a public safety issue when drugged driving occurs. Parents—start talking before a problem happens—driving or riding with an impaired driver is a high-risk decision. Talk to your teens and tell them to SPEAK UP. It is important that our kids know it is unsafe to ride with someone who is under the influence of any drug—including marijuana, prescription drugs not prescribed to them, or alcohol.
We need to keep reminding ourselves that we can make a difference. We must raise consciousness around the risks of driving or riding with an “impaired” driver—remember “Friends don’t let Friends Drive Drunk OR Drugged.” And as always, resources for parents are available on our website at www.aliive.org.