A teen behind the wheel of the family car is anxiety-provoking enough for most parents. Now comes a poll revealing that 15 percent of teen drivers say they've driven while under the influence of marijuana. That's nearly the same number of teens who've reported driving under the influence of alcohol.
Cars are the second most popular site for teen marijuana use, according to the 2004-2005 PRIDE Survey - the official measurement designated by federal law to gauge teenage drug use and combat drug-use trends. Fourteen percent of the high school seniors surveyed say they've smoked pot in a car, falling just behind "a friend's house" as locations in which teens commonly use drugs.
Teens may not be aware that driving drugged carries many of the same risks as driving drunk, including impaired concentration and reaction time. A recent study discovered that 19 percent of the teenagers admitted to one hospital's shock trauma unit for injuries from car accidents tested positive for marijuana.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is partnering with driver's education and medical associations to spread awareness of the problem with a new "Steer Clear of Pot" initiative. ONDCP advises parents of teens to take the following steps to keep their kids driving drug-free:
- Be on the lookout for drug paraphernalia in the car.
- Always ask where your teen is driving and what his or her route is.
- Set clear limits on risky driving.
- Drive with your teen to reinforce safety rules.
"It is critical that parents know the dangers associated with drugged driving and are vigilant in monitoring their teen drivers," says John Walters, director of National Drug Control Policy.For more information on teens, drugs and driving, visit www.MediaCampaign.org. To learn more about the PRIDE surveys, check out www.pridesurveys.com.
- Dana Morgenstein