Roughly one in six high school seniors in the U.S. admitted driving under the influence of marijuana, says a new survey, and 41 percent of teens in another survey said they were not concerned about driving after using drugs, the White House Office of National Drug Control policy reports. Television advertisements to raise public awareness of the problem of drugged driving will run in September and October.
“Today’s teens have gotten the wrong message about marijuana,” said John P. Walters, Director of National Drug Control Policy. “Marijuana is harmful and can lead to risky decisions, such as driving while high or riding with drivers who are impaired.”
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said “teens already have the highest crash risk of any age group, making traffic crashes the leading cause of death for young people age 15-20. Combining drug use with teens’ inexperience on the road and risk-taking behavior is a recipe for disaster.”
A “Drugged Driving” report based on the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that in 2002, between 10 and 18 percent of young drivers age 17 to 21 reported driving under the influence of an illicit drug during the past year. Driving-age teens (age 16-19) are four times more likely to use marijuana than younger adolescents (age 12-15).
Estimates show that of the nearly 4 million high school seniors in the U.S., approximately one in six (600,000) drive under the influence of marijuana, a number nearly equivalent to those who drive under the influence of alcohol (640,000). An estimated 38,000 of these students reported in 2001 that they crashed while driving under the influence of marijuana and 46,000 reported that they crashed while driving under the influence of alcohol.
Marijuana affects concentration, perception, coordination, and reaction time, effects that can last up to 24 hours after smoking it. The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign will promote free Steer Clear of Pot materials; new Web content on www.TheAntiDrug.com and www.Freevibe.com; a new drivers’ safety kit for teens and parents; TV advertisements with drugged driving messages; and partnerships with GEICO, the Department of Transportation, SADD, American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), American Driver & Traffic Safety Education Association (ADTSEA), Mitsubishi Motors North America, Liberty Mutual, and others to distribute drugged driving and marijuana prevention materials to drivers’ education teachers, teens, and parents.