Weed-Booze Combination More Dangerous For Teen Drivers Than Just Alcohol

By Shawn Dwyer 04/28/14

A new study shows that teenagers who combine pot and alcohol are more likely to be ticketed or involved in an accident.

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According to a new study published in the May issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, teenagers who mix marijuana with alcohol before getting behind the wheel are 50 to 90 percent more likely to engage in risky driving behaviors than teens who consumed either booze or weed.

The study was conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research in Ann Arbor and came from data collected from surveys of more than 72,000 high school seniors conducted from 1976-2011. The surveys were done through the Monitoring the Future study funded by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

"Simultaneous use makes a big difference in your risk for unsafe driving," said lead researcher Yvonne Terry-McElrath. "There's a very clear increase in risk for this group of kids, and for the rest of us on the roads."

The numbers showed that teens who said they just drank alcohol before driving saw a 40 percent increase in the number of traffic tickets received and a 24 percent jump in the number of accidents. But when drivers admitted to both drinking and smoking pot, those numbers skyrocketed to 90 percent for getting a ticket and 50 percent for accidents.

"It's important for parents to have ongoing conversations with their teens about the dangers of underage drinking," said Jan Withers, national president for the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving. "These kinds of open, caring conversations about values, rules and consequences can help kids with a variety of decisions about whether or not to engage in risky behaviors. This issue is too important for parents to leave to chance and hope for the best."

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.