If you have a teen driver in the house, you've probably discussed the dangers of drinking and driving. But now that new laws have made marijuana easier to find in many states, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urges parents to make sure their teens know that driving high—just like driving drunk—is driving while intoxicated.
The risks of driving high
Impaired judgment, reaction time & more. You may have heard people say that marijuana use is not dangerous. This is not true. Marijuana causes
problems with memory, attention and problem-solving in kids. It also affects judgment, concentration, reaction time and coordination. This can lead to
car crashes. In fact, a recent study found that drivers weave in the lane the same way after marijuana use as they do after alcohol use.
Adding risk to risk. Young drivers are already at risk of motor vehicle crashes because they are not experienced drivers. Mixing marijuana and alcohol adds to this risk, especially for teens. The body does not process marijuana like alcohol. The dose, strength and way it is used (such as smoked, vaped or
eaten) affects each person differently.
While alcohol is the most common cause of motor vehicle crashes for impaired drivers of all ages, marijuana is the second, according to government data.
How parents can help
The AAP opposes marijuana use in children younger than 21 years and encourages parents to start
talking about the dangers of substance use early, when their child is in elementary school. This conversation can happen over time, not just once. That way, by the time your child is ready to start driving you will have shared your expectations and guidance. When talking about safe driving, keep these tips in mind:
- Give clear rules. Let your teen know what you expect and what the consequences will be if rules are broken.
- Be a good role model. Never drive while impaired. If you use alcohol or other substances, have a designated driver. Keep in mind, if you use marijuana in front of your teens, they are more likely to use it themselves.
- Sign on the dotted line. Use our
Parent-Teen Driving Agreement to outline the rules and expectations for both you and your teen driver. Print it out and sign it together, so everyone is clear and in agreement.