Driving on Drugs as Common as Alcohol for Teens
day, more than 9,000 new driver's licenses are
issued to 16- and 17-year-olds nationwide, the
very same age group that is at greatest risk for
marijuana use, and a recent survey reveals that
these teens say that cars are the second most
popular place for smoking marijuana. The Office
of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is partnering
with driving schools and other leading health,
safety and youth-serving organizations to warn
parents of the prevalence and dangers of drugged
driving and to provide information to help teens "Steer Clear of Pot."
More than 2.9 million driving-age teens reported
lifetime use of marijuana, and last year more
than 750,000 16- and 17-year-olds reported driving
under the influence of illicit drugs. According
to the 2004-2005 PRIDE Surveys, when asked where
they use, approximately one in seven (14%) high
school seniors cited "in a car," making
cars the second most popular location after at
"a friend's house" (20.4%).
"Parents need to realize that drugged driving
is nearly as common today among teens as alcohol-impaired
driving," said John P. Walters, Director,
National Drug Control Policy. "Marijuana
impairs many of the skills required for safe driving,
such as concentration, coordination, perception
and reaction time, and these effects can last
up to 24 hours after smoking the drug-It is critical
that parents know the dangers associated with
drugged driving and are vigilant in monitoring
their teen drivers, especially young, less experienced
Monitoring the Future data shows that approximately
one in six (15%) teens reported driving under
the influence of marijuana, a number nearly equivalent
to those who reported driving under the influence
of alcohol (16%). A recent study from a large
shock trauma unit found that 19 percent of automobile
crash victims under age 18 tested positive for
"Getting a driver's license is a milestone
in a teen's life that goes beyond the road to
symbolize independence and freedom," said
Thomas "Buddy" Gleaton, Ed.D., President,
PRIDE Surveys. "In the more than 20 years
that PRIDE Surveys has been tracking teen drug
use, teens consistently report engaging in risky
behaviors in cars. Parents need to keep a watchful
eye to be effective in reversing these trends."
ONDCP's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign is providing parents and teens with information about the risks of drugged driving through a renewed "Steer Clear of Pot" initiative. The Media Campaign will underscore the harmful effects of teen marijuana use and drugged driving through the promotion of free materials, including a "New Drivers Kit" for teens and parents, available with other new content on the Media Campaign's Web site for parents, www.TheAntiDrug.com.
In addition, "Steer Clear of Pot" partners will distribute drugged driving and marijuana prevention materials to driver's education teachers, teens, and parents nationwide.
"Driver's education and behind-the-wheel training are at the foundation for developing safe driving skills," said Bradley Huspek, President, Driving School Association of the Americas. "Parents and driving instructors play a critical role in educating teens about being responsible drivers and steering clear from drugs."
Experts say parental supervision and setting clear rules are associated with less risky teen behavior. A recent SADD/Liberty Mutual Group report found that nearly 60 percent of teens who drive say their parents have the most influence on their driving, followed by 27 percent who say their friends are most influential. Parents can take action and help their teen "steer clear of pot" with simple steps such as:
checking the car for signs of drug paraphernalia;
setting limits on driving in risky conditions;
knowing where their teen is going and what route they'll drive
reinforcing safe driving practices by driving together.
Since its inception in 1998, the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign has conducted outreach to millions of parents, teens and communities to reduce and prevent teen drug use. Counting on an unprecedented blend of public and private partnerships, non-profit community service organizations, volunteerism, and youth-to-youth communications, the Campaign is designed to reach Americans of diverse backgrounds with effective anti-drug messages.