A third of teens think smoking marijuana and driving is legal, according to a new study.
Out of 2,800 teens surveyed, 33% said driving under the influence of marijuana is legal in states where it's recreational. More than 20% of teens reported it's common among their friends. Parent perceptions (1,000 were surveyed) were similar: 27% said it's legal and 14% said it's common among friends.
While survey data showed 88% of teens think driving under the influence of alcohol is dangerous, just 68% said driving under the influence of marijuana is dangerous.
Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) conducted the surveys in April and May of this year.
“Driving under the influence of marijuana significantly impairs motor coordination, judgment and reaction time,” said Mike Sample, lead driving safety expert and technical consultant at Liberty Mutual, in a release. “It’s important for parents and teens alike to understand the importance of not smoking marijuana and driving to help keep everyone safe on the road.”
Equally disturbing, 39% of people in states where marijuana is legal said they feel comfortable getting in the driver’s seat within two hours of smoking or consuming marijuana, according to a study of 600 residents by used car dealer Instamotor. Marijuana can stay in a person's system for days to weeks, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Gene Beresin, senior advisor on adolescent psychiatry with SADD and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said there needs to be more education around the dangers of marijuana.
"Conversations between parents and teenagers and between parents and adults in general are really really important," said Beresin, an executive director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital. "They are the most important role models for our kids."
Sample and Beresin advise parents to open the door for conversation, set clear expectations about not driving under the influence and not driving with someone under the influence. They also suggest creating a secret code like texting 222 if they need to be picked up with "no questions asked."
Marijuana can alter senses, impair body movement and memory, create hallucinations, delusions and psychosis in high doses, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
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