By he HELP Committee and Havre Public Schools
According to the Federal Highway Administration, an estimated 3 million teens will get a driver's license this year. Teens get their driver's licenses at a risky time in their lives. They already have the highest crash risk of any age group, making collisions the leading cause of death for young people age 15 to 20.
As teens prepare to take on the responsibility of driving, parents and other influential adults (e.g., driver's education teachers, insurance representatives and relatives) should be talking to them about the dangers of substance use and other risky behaviors. Unfortunately, many young drivers do not understand the risks associated with marijuana use, even though teens of driving age are four times more likely to use marijuana than younger adolescents. This milestone in teens' lives is a crucial opportunity for adults to give teens the information and tools they need to drive and live drug-free.
Combining drug use with teens' inexperience on the road and risk-taking is a recipe for disaster. New research shows that approximately one in six high school seniors report driving under the influence of marijuana, about the same number as alcohol. An estimated 38,000 high school seniors in the United States reported in 2001 that they crashed while driving under the influence of marijuana, and 46,000 reported that they crashed while impaired by alcohol.
So, how can you help your teen steer clear of pot? Here is a list of simple things parents can do and say to help prevent their teens from using marijuana and to keep them safe on the road.
Tip 1: Know the facts. Marijuana is more harmful than many parents and teens think. Take time to learn the facts about marijuana and talk to your teen about its harmful health, social, learning and mental effects on young users.
Tip 2: Set rules. Let your child know that marijuana use is unacceptable. Two-thirds of kids say that upsetting their parents or losing the respect of family and friends is one of the main reasons they don't smoke marijuana or use other drugs. Also, set limits on driving, especially in high-risk conditions such as at night, with other teen passengers and in poor weather conditions. Limit your teen from riding with other new drivers, and make sure she or he never gets in a car with a teen driver who has been drinking or using drugs.
Tip 3: Monitor your teen. Know where your teen is and who he or she is with. Get to know your teen's friends and their parents. Car crashes are 86 percent less likely to occur among teens with strong parental monitoring.
Tip 4: Stay alert. Warning signs of teen drug use include distance from family and friends, lack of interest in personal appearance, changes in eating or sleeping habits, or trouble in school.
Tip 5: Encourage participation in constructive activities. Encourage your teen to participate in after-school activities. Research shows that teens who are involved in constructive, adult-supervised activities are less likely to use drugs.
Tip 6: Celebrate success. Praise and reward good driving and drug-free behavior. Enjoy time together as a family.
The AntiDrug.com has partnered with GEICO, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and other driving-safety leaders to offer several free resources for parents and youth to help keep teens marijuana- and drug-free before they get behind the wheel of a car.
The following free materials are available as part of the New Teen Drivers Kit. They can be ordered online or by phone at the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information at (800) 788-2800.
The "Teach Teens to Steer Clear of Pot" car glove box card for teens contains messages about the risks of marijuana-impaired driving, resources for teens and a space on the back for emergency contact numbers. Ask for document AVD173.
The "Can I Borrow the Car?" brochure for parents of new teen drivers was developed by GEICO and the Media Campaign and provides tips on how to encourage drug-free driving. Ask for document PHD1030.
The "Top 10 Tips For Teen Drivers" collection of safe driving tips was developed by GEICO and the Media Campaign to help teens become responsible, drug-free drivers. Ask for document MS933.
The "Steer Clear of Pot" teen postcard highlights the harmful effects of marijuana and how the drug impairs judgment, reaction time and other driving abilities. Ask for document AVD172.
The "Steer Clear of Pot" teen poster features the dangers of drugged driving. Ask for document AVD174.
"Wake Up to the Risks of Marijuana: A Guide for Parents" is a brochure that offers parents information and tips about talking with kids about marijuana. Ask for document PHD956.
For more information, contact the HELP Committee and Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line at 265-6206.