Weed Used More than Alcohol by Teen Drivers

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Coming on the heels of research that shows how marijuana impairs driving, the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company has released the results of a study that shows teens are driving under the influence of marijuana more often than alcohol. With 19% of teens reporting they have driven after using marijuana, only 13% say the same about booze.

What’s even more interesting is that teen drivers’ attitudes about the two substances are quite different. This may reflect the push to educate the public about the dangers of drinking and driving, while not emphasizing the dangers of smoking marijuana and operating a motor vehicle. Teens in the study were asked to rate the danger of the two and 36% thought that driving under the influence of marijuana wasn’t a distraction to driving, compared to only 19% who rated alcohol as safe.

The dangers of driving buzzed are similar between alcohol and weed. Slowed reaction times, a lack of coordination and dozing off are a few. There’s also the risks that come with combining alcohol and marijuana – worse than either drug alone.

In some ways, the trend toward legalization has given marijuana myths a boost. The push to make marijuana seem as harmless as possible has led to an exaggeration of the safety profile. The claim has even been made that marijuana use actually makes people drive more safely because they drive slower. However, anyone who has abused marijuana understands that the point is to alter consciousness. If the reason is to get high, it’s hard to argue that driving high isn’t somehow, well, driving high.

Those who advocate marijuana for medical use would differentiate that purpose from the entertainment/abuse side of the issue. However, medical use doesn’t necessarily equate with “safe to drive.” In fact, it’s a common warning on pain medications – Do Not Operate Machinery Or Drive While Taking This Medication.” Teens need to get this message, regardless of how the national marijuana debate shakes out.

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