Teen Driving & Marijuana

Teens of driving age are at a higher risk for using marijuana than other teens.
  • A recent study found that high school students are more likely to drink, smoke cigarettes, and smoke marijuana during the period immediately after earning their drivers' licenses and their driving behaviors become riskier with more driving experience.
  • One in four (27 percent) 16-year-olds reported using marijuana in the past year compared to 18 percent of 15 year olds.
  • Approximately 271,000 16-year-olds reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs in 2003.
Today's teens are just as likely to drive under the influence of marijuana as alcohol.
  • According to Monitoring the Future data, approximately one in six (15 percent) teens reported driving under the influence of marijuana, a number nearly equivalent to those who reported driving under the influence of alcohol (16 percent), despite higher prevalence of alcohol consumption among teens.
  • A majority (68 percent) of licensed teen drivers who use drugs regularly report that they "drug and drive."
  • Only 18 percent of teens cited "planning to drive" as a top reason to not use drugs. Nearly twice as many (30 percent) cited "planning to drive" as a reason not to drink.
  • Sixteen percent of 12th graders reported smoking marijuana in a car and 10 percent reported drinking beer in a car. Cars were second to a friend's house as the most common place for high school seniors to report smoking marijuana.
Marijuana impairs driving. Marijuana is harmful and can lead to risky decisions, such as driving while high or riding with someone under the influence of marijuana.
  • Marijuana affects concentration, perception, coordination and reaction time, many of the skills required for safe driving. These effects can last up to 24 hours after smoking marijuana.
  • An ongoing study of a large shock trauma unit found that 19 percent of crash victims under age 18 tested positive for marijuana.
  • An estimated 38,000 high school seniors in the U.S. reported in 2001 that they crashed while driving under the influence of marijuana and 46,000 reported that they crashed while impaired by alcohol.
  • Alcohol and marijuana are also frequently used together, which results in a dramatic decrease in driving performance and spike in impairment levels.
Combining drug use and alcohol with teens' inexperience on the road and risk-taking behavior is a recipe for disaster. While the rate of alcohol-related fatal crashes involving teen drivers is declining they still have the highest overall crash risk of any age group.
  • Traffic crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for 15 to 20 year olds.
  • Nearly one in five 16-year-old drivers is involved in a collision in their first year of driving.
  • Young people aged 15 to 20 years of age make up 6 percent of licensed drivers in the U.S., but are involved in 14 percent of all fatal crashes, and 18 percent of all police-reported crashes.
  • The risk of crashing per mile driven among 16- to 19-year-olds is four times higher than the risk among older drivers.
Parents are the most important influence on their teen when it comes to marijuana use and other risky behaviors, including risky driving. Parents of new drivers can use the milestone of getting a driver's license to discuss the dangers of marijuana and being responsible behind the wheel. They can help keep kids drug-free and reduce other risks by closely supervising their time, knowing who they are with, and setting clear rules.
  • Greater parent involvement, setting driving rules and parental supervision are associated with less risky teen driving behavior. Crashes were one-seventh as likely to occur and traffic violations were one-fourth as likely to occur among teens with strong parental monitoring.
  • Fifty-nine percent of teens who drive say their parents have the most influence on their driving, followed by 27% who say their friends are most influential.
  • One in three high school students report they "want" or "need" to spend more time with their parents.
  • Two-thirds of youth aged 13 to 17 say that upsetting their parents or losing the respect of family and friends is one of the main reasons they don't smoke marijuana or use other drugs.
  • Kids who learn about the risks of drug abuse from their parents or caregivers are about 36 percent less likely to smoke marijuana than kids who don't.

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