A new study shows that nearly 7 million Americans aged 18 to 25 (more than…
Young Adults Seemingly Unaware of Dangers of Driving High
A study conducted through the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, provides a troubling look at the cavalier attitude some young people have toward marijuana use and driving. The study surveyed 315 college freshmen hailing from two separate state institutions in Washington and Wisconsin. Of those surveyed, one out of five told researchers that they had used marijuana within the past 30 days.
Among those surveyed, better than 50 percent of college men and over 30 percent of college women reported riding in a car with someone else who had been using marijuana. Close to 44 percent of the young men said they had driven not long after using marijuana, and 9 percent of women said they had gotten behind the wheel after using the drug. Young adults apparently see little danger in using marijuana and then driving.
Compared to the number of college kids who drive stoned, the number of those who drive after drinking is small. The study found that 11 percent of college men self-reported driving while intoxicated and just 3 percent of women drove under the influence of alcohol. The message not to drink and drive may be getting through.
It is more common than ever for young people who spend an evening with alcohol to elect a designated driver. Young adults also seem to recognize the wisdom of calling a taxi when you have had more than a glass of booze. It’s time to help develop a new habit of electing non-users if young people are going to be using marijuana.
Another sign that drivers may be underestimating the risks of toking and driving is the number of deadly car accidents on Colorado highways since the drug was first made legal in that state. Since granting permission for medical marijuana use in the state in 2009, the number of traffic fatalities in which one driver (at least) had been using the drug has doubled. Another report finds that 10 percent of all 2011 traffic deaths were linked to at least one driver having used marijuana.
For now, it is still a bit difficult to apprehend and successfully charge high drivers. Field tests, which catch 90 percent of drunk drivers, only net 30 percent of pot users. The state police department is asking for more money to train specialists in recognizing high drivers and the National Institute on Drug Abuse is busy working on more effective field tests. Meanwhile, the state has launched a public service announcement campaign titled “Drive High, Get a DUI.”