A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health reports that 28% of high school seniors either drove under the influence in the past two weeks or rode with someone they know was under the influence. Driving after smoking marijuana has increased substantially over the past three years.
Over 17,000 high school seniors are surveyed every year as part of a long-term research project sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Clearly, this organization has a vested interest in finding high levels of usage among teens. However, the disturbing level of use – over a quarter of respondents or their friends – and the large scale of the study should make parents sit up and take notice.
Boys are more likely than girls to report driving after drinking or using marijuana or other drugs. But boys and girls report equally riding in a car driven by a friend they know had used alcohol or other substances recently enough to be impaired. These findings were the same across all economic levels and geographic locations.
Even if you don’t drive, your friends might be driving you. Part of growing up includes evaluating situations and making good decisions. Kids have to have opportunities to do this.
At the same time, you need to be safe.
- Never drive under the influence and remember to never ride with someone who might be under the influence.
- Impairments in yourself or your friends may not be obvious. You should make decisions about whom to ride with not depending on how steady your friend appears to be but on what she actually used.
- Call for help from anywhere at any time, no questions asked, if you find yourself in a position where there is no safe way to get home without help.
- Mentally rehearse what to say if a friend shouldn’t drive. The old saying, “friends don’t let friends drive drunk,” applies here. Know what to say. (Yes, you might think scripting a conversation is dumb, but it will help!)
Automobile accidents continue to be a huge risk for teens, forming the number one cause of death. Help yourself – and your friends – to stay safe!
© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Ask for Dr. Anderson’s new book, Developmentally Appropriate Parenting, at your favorite bookstore.