Pot-Smoking Teen Drivers Say Weed Aids or Isn’t Hindrance
Most teenagers who drove under the influence of marijuana said the drug either improves their performance behind the wheel or is no hindrance, according to a survey by insurer Liberty Mutual Holding Co. and a safety group.
Thirty-four percent of those who have driven while high say the drug makes them a better motorist, and 41 percent said it had no effect, Boston-based Liberty Mutual said. Among teens who drove under the influence of alcohol, 62 percent said drinking affected their driving for the worse.
Teens’ attitudes show that parents need to do a better job of educating children about safe driving, Liberty Mutual and Students Against Destructive Decisions said in a statement today disclosing survey results. They found that 23 percent of teens had driven under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or prescription drugs used illegally.
“We’ve been stressing the dangers associated with drinking and driving, and drugging and driving, for years and years and years,” Dave Melton, who helps oversee safety initiatives at Liberty Mutual, said in an interview today. “Our kids are still doing the same kinds of things.”
Parents need to set a good example for their children and enforce driving rules to keep them safe, Melton said.
While there’s a clear association between alcohol and increased car-crash risk, the link between marijuana use and accidents is less certain, according to NORML, which seeks to decriminalize marijuana use by adults. Stoned drivers may slow down and require greater time to respond, the organization said on its website.
“This reaction is just the opposite of that exhibited by drivers under the influence of alcohol, who tend to drive in a more risky manner proportional to their intoxication,” NORML said on its site.
Still, the organization said people shouldn’t drive after being impaired by marijuana use.
Teen drivers say using a mobile phone is at least as distracting as driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or prescription drugs, Liberty Mutual found. Three quarters of teens said driving while high on marijuana is at least slightly distracting, and 86 percent said the same of driving under the influence of alcohol.
The data are based on completed surveys from 1,708 11th and 12th graders at 26 high schools across the U.S., according to Liberty Mutual.
Melton said he was shocked by teen acceptance of driving after marijuana use.
“I don’t understand how they think it improves their driving,” he said. “Maybe they think that their senses are enhanced as a result of using a mind-altering drug. I just can’t say, I have no idea.”
Editors: Dan Kraut, David Scheer
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