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Driving While High a New Teen Epademic?

It seems that in the pursuit to educate our teens about the dangers of drinking and driving, texting and driving, and having friends in the car, parents have forgotten to warn young drivers about the dangers of driving under the influence of marijuana.

A teen driving study release this week from Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions found that 19 percent of teens have admitted to driving after smoking marijuana. This is compared to the 13 percent who've admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol. Marijuana has harmful effects on the skills required to drive safely: alertness, the ability to concentrate, coordination, and the ability to react quickly. Marijuana can also make it difficult to judge distances and react to signals and sounds on the road.

Marijuana use is at an all-time high among teenagers, and according to the study, they've become desensitized to the dangers of the drug. The level of concern of driving under the influence has decreased eight percent since 2009. The effects of marijuana can last up to 24 hours after its been smoked, so it's not something that can be slept off like alcohol. However, all is not lost in preventing our teens from making poor decisions regarding their driving habits.

The study also found that 90 percent of teens would stop driving, or would decide not to drive, if asked to do so by a friend. It seems that educating young drivers isn't just the responsibility of parents, but of other young drivers as well. Parents can also help their teens by being available for a safe ride home, or having another relative be available to offer a ride home, or to avoid getting in the car with someone who is under the influence. Marijuana could be seen as a taboo topic since it's an illegal drug, so letting your teen know that someone will be there for them in spite of the presence or use of the drug will be helpful in getting a young driver to make good decisions.

It's obvious to address some of the legal or most common dangers with our teens when it comes to driving, but peer pressure and illegal drugs also need to be addressed, as they are very real issues for teens and they could be confronted with those decisions. With teens prone to take risks when driving and not in the presence of parents, it's important to make yourself comfortable and available for your teens.