Dangers of Teen Driving High on Marijuana

How much is too much when it comes to marijuana use and driving? States that have legalized the drug for recreational purposes are still working to come up with a fair and accurate answer to that question that applies to all users across the board – those that smoke the drug regularly and thus have a high tolerance and those who are legitimately impaired.
When it comes to teens, however, there is no legal limit for marijuana in the blood because there is no legal use of the drug by teenagers for any reason in any state in the country, no matter what the rules are for those over the age of 18 or 21.
Do you think that driving under the influence of marijuana isn’t an issue that will affect your child? Consider the facts. A recent study found the following to be true:

  • About 20 percent of teenage drivers reported that they operated a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana.
  • About 33 percent of these drivers said they were unconcerned with driving while high because they didn’t think that marijuana use negatively impacted their driving ability.
  • Comparably, less than 20 percent of teens who drove a car after drinking alcohol thought they were less safe drivers while under the influence of alcohol.

The message? Teens may not realize that driving after using marijuana is a dangerous choice even though they are well aware that drinking and driving is dangerous. That means that your teen may make the choice to drive while under the influence – or he may opt to get in the car with someone who has been using marijuana.

Driving Is Not Automatic
No matter how long your son has been driving, how often he drives, or how well he drives, there is no point where injecting the influence of a mind-altering substance into the mix is appropriate. Though he may feel that he is barely paying attention to the road, especially when driving to or from a familiar place, the fact is that his mind is highly keyed into the many processes necessary to safely operate a vehicle. Using turn signals, braking and accelerating, paying attention to signs, being aware of and reacting to the erratic or unexpected behavior of other drivers – none of these come without paying attention and using multiple parts of the brain to process sensory information and relay that information to the hands and feet so they react with split-second timing.

When under the influence of marijuana, your teen’s reaction time is slowed, as is his ability to process incoming sensory information. He may not notice that pedestrian until it’s too late, or he may be unable to successfully gauge how fast the car in front of him is going or react quickly enough when that car suddenly stops. Even a small amount of marijuana can cut the ability to react in a driving situation and cause a deadly accident.

The Teen Brain
In addition to the effects that marijuana has on any user’s brain regardless of age, teenagers are notorious for unsafe driving. This is in part due to lack of experience behind the wheel, but it is also due to the fact that the teen brain is not as developed as the adult brain. Teens’ ability to appropriately judge a situation and react accordingly is diminished because that part of the brain is not as developed as it will be when they are adults. Adding marijuana to this scenario is an accident waiting to happen.