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1 in 6 High School Seniors Admit Driving While High

Approximately one in six high school seniors in the United States admitted driving under the influence of marijuana, according to a recent analysis of Monitoring the Future data, and 41 percent of teens surveyed by SADD/Liberty Mutual said they were not concerned about driving after using drugs.

Recently, the nation's Drug Czar and Secretary of Transportation were joined by Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), GEICO, Mitsubishi Motors North America, and several driving safety leaders to steer teens clear of pot as they prepare to take on the responsibility of driving. Television advertisements to raise public awareness of the problem of drugged driving will run during the months of 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. We want to encourage parents of new drivers to use this milestone in their teen's life to discuss the dangers of marijuana and being responsible behind the wheel."

The "Drugged Driving" short report from 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 also four times more likely to use marijuana than younger adolescents (age 12-15).

Estimates based on Monitoring the Future and Census Bureau data also show that of the nearly 4 million high school seniors in the United States, 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). Additionally, 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, many of the skills required for safe driving and other tasks. These effects can last up to 24 hours after smoking marijuana. Marijuana use can also make it difficult to judge distances and react to signals and sounds on the road.

Teens are high-risk drivers and have the highest crash risk of any age group. Nearly one in five 16-year-old drivers is involved in a collision in his or her first year of driving, making motor vehicle crashes the leading cause of death for young people age 15 to 20.

Greater parent involvement, clear rules, and parental supervision are associated with less risky teen behavior, such as marijuana use and driving while high or under the influence of alcohol. Crashes were one-seventh less likely to occur among teens with strong parental monitoring, according to the Journal of Safety Research.

To learn more about preventing youth marijuana and other illicit drug use, log on to for parents and for teens.