Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Ages & Stages

Driving While High: Why Marijuana and Driving are a Dangerous Mix

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.

Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal. Teens should never drive or ride with someone who has been using marijuana.

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.

Fact: More than 9% of drivers ages 16 -20 admit to having driven under the influence of marijuana.

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.

Parents, here is a video you can share with your teen:

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.

More information:

Last Updated
Adapted from AAP News Parent Plus (Copyright © 2020 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
Follow Us