We recently found out that teens who ride with a drunk driver are more likely to drive drunk later in life, but a new study reveals that riding with a drunk driver isn’t the only factor that increases a teen’s risk for unsafe driving. According to a study published in the May issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, teens who both drink alcohol and smoke marijuana are at an increased risk of practicing unsafe driving behaviors than teens who use neither or only one or the other. The risks are even greater for teens who use alcohol and marijuana simultaneously.
After surveying more than 72,000 high school seniors annually from 1976 to 2011, researchers found that teens who had used both alcohol and marijuana in the past year had higher rates of traffic tickets, traffic warnings, and car crashes. Teens who used both alcohol and marijuana at the same time were 50-90% more likely to admit to unsafe driving than teens who did not drink or smoke pot at all.
Of teens who just drank alcohol, 40% were more likely to get a traffic ticket and 24% were more likely to get into a traffic crash. However, teens who used alcohol and marijuana simultaneously were 90% more likely to get a traffic ticket and 50% more likely to get into a traffic crash.
The good news? Both alcohol and marijuana use among teens declined over time. In 1979, 12% of high school seniors said they hadn’t used either alcohol or marijuana in the past year. By 2011, one-third of high school seniors said they hadn’t used either drug in the past year. However, 31% of teens reported drinking in 2011, 13% reported using both alcohol and marijuana, and 21% were using both drugs simultaneously.
As a result of the study, researchers encourage parents to not just talk to their teens about the dangers of alcohol use but of simultaneous drug use, as using alcohol and marijuana or other drugs at the same time can have even greater impairing effects, especially when driving, than using one or the other alone.