Stoned Behind the Wheel: Teens Troubling Views on Marijuana and Driving

Albert Fontenot Addiction, Marijuana, Parenting, Teen Substance Abuse Leave a Comment

Driving under the influence of marijuana significantly impairs motor coordination, judgment, and reaction time. It’s important for parents and teens alike to understand the importance of not smoking marijuana and driving to help keep everyone safe on the road.”

~Mike Sample, Driving Safety Expert and Technical Consultant, Liberty Mutual Insurance

After a new survey conducted jointly by Students against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and Liberty Mutual Insurance, the findings concerning a significant percentage of teenagers’ opinions on marijuana and driving are, to say the least, disturbing. What’s worse, many of their parents share the same mistaken beliefs.

Among the parents and teenagers surveyed:

  • 33% of teenagers think that it is legal to drive after consuming marijuana in those states where recreational use is allowed.
  • 27% of parents have the same opinion.

For the record, – it’s NOT.

Drugged Driving in Orange County

Here in California, drugged driving has ALWAYS been illegal – Proposition 64 didn’t change that.

In fact, here in Orange County, there are around 300 police officers who have been specially-trained as official drug recognition experts. They are taught how to recognize the different signs of drug impairment from painkillers to methamphetamines to marijuana. These officers can be called to a scene where impairment is suspected.

Law enforcement has even created a new 12-step field sobriety test, specifically designed for people thought to be driving while under the influence of drugs.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office aggressively prosecutes drug-driving offenses. Moreover, they are SUCCESSFUL at doing so – 2015-2016, out of 1086 such cases, charges were filed in 969 of them – over 89%!

Dangerous Driving Decisions

Despite the availability of this real information, 20% of teens and 14% of parents surveyed say that using marijuana and driving is a common practice. In a different survey, 39% of respondents feel that they are okay to drive within 2 hours of using marijuana.

They are wrong.

Start with the science—

A 2016 study published last December in JAMA Ophthalmology reports that smoking marijuana slows down the visual processing of information.

A different study also determined how marijuana can impair driving:

  • Gives users “tunnel vision” by reducing peripheral vision.
  • Increases weaving and drifting within and across driving lanes.
  • Using both marijuana and alcohol magnifies the effects, EVEN if both are below the legal limit.

Now, the statistics –

Colorado – During the first 6 months of legalization, detox programs reported that 15% of patients were arrested for marijuana DUIs. This is nearly double the 8% of a year earlier.

Washington State – within one year of legalization, the number of auto fatalities involving marijuana doubled.

From the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • Marijuana is involved in only 16% of traffic fatalities in those states where it is illegal.
  • However, in those states with medical marijuana, that percentage jumps to 21%
  • In those states where recreational use is legal, 31% of traffic deaths involve marijuana.
  • Compared to a driver who is doing neither, driving while under the influence of both marijuana and alcohol translates to an 8-fold greater risk of a fatal crash.

What’s the Bottom Line about Marijuana and Driving?

Susan Price, the assistant head of courts for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, says, “People think of marijuana as a harmless herb with medicinal value. But the bottom line is that it can impair your driving, especially when you combine it with something else. We believe that education is key.”

For parents, this means talking to your kids about the realities and dangers of driving while impaired. Just as important, it means acting if you see signs of drug use by your teenager. If you need help, Teensavers Treatment Centers has been the most-trusted youth-focused drug rehab in Orange County for over 35 years.

Teensavers—“Transforming Lives…”