Impaired Driving: Teens, Marijuana and Driving



In Ventura County:

  • 1 in 8 high school seniors reported that within the past two weeks, they had driven after using marijuana.
  • 1 in 4 had recently ridden in a car with such a driver.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among young people aged 16 to 19. Teen drivers are more likely than older drivers to underestimate or not recognize dangerous situations. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a 2011 survey of middle and high school students showed that the number of 12th-grade students who had driven after using marijuana was 12.4 percent, other illicit drugs was 2.4 percent, and alcohol was 8.7 percent. After alcohol, marijuana is the drug most often linked to drug-impaired driving. And the reality is, teens get in twice as many crashes after using marijuana.


  • The use of any drug can make it unsafe to drive a car. Drugs can impair motor skills, perception, judgment and memory. Even small amounts of some drugs may have an impact on the ability to drive.
  • Impaired driving involves all substances, not just alcohol. Youth may use alcohol, prescription medications, marijuana and a combination of these. The important thing is making sure that your teen doesn’t drive while impaired.

The #1 threat to a teen’s safety is driving or riding in a car with a teen driver.


  • Impairs motor skills, alters perception of speed and slows reaction time.
  • Risk of an accident doubles when a person drives soon after using marijuana.
  • After alcohol, marijuana is the most frequently found substance in the blood of impaired drivers, fatally injured drivers and crash victims.


  • Learn the facts about how marijuana impacts the teen brain. Watch for signs.
  • Write a family contract with your teen, emphasizing an agreement to not drive impaired.
  • Encourage your teen to talk about marijuana with you and review the risks. Problem solve how to avoid peer pressure to use drugs.
  • Discuss how to deal with situations that are risky and potentially dangerous. Talk about not driving with a friend who may have used marijuana or alcohol. Come up with an emergency plan together.
  • Talk about impaired driving, and the responsibility and expectations around safe driving.
  • Model appropriate behaviors for your child, including not driving impaired.
  • Teach your child that prescription drugs, alcohol, marijuana and illicit drugs all impact driving.
  • Practice role playing about a social situation that they may find themselves in.


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