Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Teen Drivers and Marijuana: A Dangerous Trend

A growing number of teen drivers don’t see smoking marijuana as a problem. A recent study found that nearly one in five (19%) admit to driving after smoking the drug. Only 13% reported driving under the influence of alcohol.

With the legalization of marijuana in Washington state, many teens think it’s “no big deal” to smoke a joint or eat marijuana-laced candy or brownies, since it’s "only" considered a recreational drug.

A study of nearly 2,300 11th and 12th graders across the U.S., commissioned by an insurance company and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) found that 70% of teens now say marijuana use is “very” or “extremely” distracting to their driving abilities, down from 78% in 2009.

These and other surveys reflect a “dangerous trend toward the acceptance of marijuana and other substances compared to our study of teens conducted just two years ago,” says Stephen Wallace, senior advisor for policy, research and education at SADD.

The new study's findings are disturbing "both in terms of the increased use of marijuana and from the perspective that many think this is not a danger," Wallace says.

Among teens who have driven after using marijuana, more than one third (36%) say it presents no distraction when operating a vehicle, while only in five (19%) say alcohol is no distraction.

As 18-year-old who drove after getting high explains, "When you're high, you're supposed to be relaxed. But when you're driving, you technically can't be. I went numb! I wasn't sure if I was pressing the gas or the brakes or if I was moving at all. It was really intense, and the colors from the cars and the headlights were all blurring."

In fact, a recent review in medical journal BMJ found that high drivers are twice as likely to get in a serious accident than sober drivers, debunking anecdotal evidence and prior research to the contrary.

Even though marijuana is legal in Washington, penalties for DUI pertain to marijuana use, and THC, the drug in marijuana, can stay in a person’s system for up to two weeks. In addition, in Washington, where it was legalized, you must be 21 years old to legally partake.

Complicating matters further, the federal government still considers pot to be an illegal drug, and most businesses have a zero tolerance for drug use. An employee who is drug tested could be fired immediately, depending on the company’s drug policy.

If you are convicted of a DUI, you will lose your drivers license, get fined and be sentenced to jail time. If your employer tests you and you're high, you may lose your job. Is it worth the risk?

Sources: USA Today, Teen Vogue, KIRO TV