Messages that warn against drinking and driving in alcohol ads promote drinking responsibly and choosing designated drivers. But there’s no such message for drugged driving - driving under the influence of drugs. Any drug that acts on the brain, including marijuana and prescribed medications, can impair perception, judgment, reaction time and memory – all required for safe driving.
Based on the 2010 Illinois Youth Survey, seven percent of Maine Township High School sophomores surveyed (97 students) and 17 percent of seniors surveyed (205 students) reported they had driven a car when using marijuana or other illegal drug during the past 12 months.
Drugged driving puts drivers, passengers and anyone who shares the road in jeopardy. Drunk driving kills nearly 11,000 people each year. Driving under the influence of drugs alone, or alcohol and drugs, also results in needless injuries and deaths. To bring attention to this issue, President Obama designated December as National Impaired Driving Month. According to the President, “research suggests that younger drivers are particularly susceptible to the hazards of drugged driving.” Read more information in the official proclamation for the White House at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/30/presidential-proclamation-national-impaired-driving-prevention-month-201.
How much is too much?
Drugged driving laws lag behind laws for alcohol related driving because there is not yet an agreed upon limit – such as the .08 blood alcohol level – for drugs in the system while driving. However, in Illinois, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle if there is any detectable level of a prohibited drug in the driver’s blood.
Zero tolerance for teens
MCYAF, a community coalition working to help Maine Township youth avoid alcohol and drugs, endorses zero tolerance for teens using any substance. This includes no-use rules and consequences for beer, hard liquor, marijuana, misused prescription or over-the-counter drugs, etc., when driving and otherwise.
Many parents have conversations with their teenagers about drinking and driving and not getting into a car with drivers under the influence of alcohol. It’s important to take that conversation a step further to include not riding in a car with someone under the influence of drugs of any kind, including marijuana and abused prescription medications.
Parents may want to have their teen drivers sign a contract stating they will avoid using both alcohol and drugs. The contract could include consequences that revoke driving privileges if they are found to be under the influence of any substance. Loss of driving privileges is a proven effective deterrent for teenagers in many instances. A sample contract can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/Motorvehiclesafety/pdf/Driving_Contract-a.pdf.
The bottom line is that driving under the influence of alcohol or any other drug, legal or illegal, puts everyone at risk.
The Maine Community Youth Assistance Foundation is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to provide Maine Township residents with a foundation to make healthier choices. MCYAF works with parents, schools, police, youth, government, health care providers, social service, faith and civic organizations toward a common goal of healthy youth. MCYAF secures federal and state grants as well as corporate and private donations for programs and services that promote improved health for residents. For more information, see www.mcyaf.com or contact us at (847) 858-7090.
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