The need for Drivers Education

As part of a Graduated Drivers License, millions of teens take Drivers Education classes each year.  This is an opportunity to provide factual information about the dangers of drugged driving at a time when students are most vulnerable to the misleading information spawned by the marijuana lobby. Drivers Education programs vary widely but generally try to follow a curriculum codified by the American Driver Training and Safety Education Association.  Most do an excellent job of educating students on the dangers of drunk driving.  Excellent quality published materials are available to support teachers in this endeavor.

Drugged driving is another matter.  Most materials published do a very poor job educating students about the dangers of drugged driving.  The AAA Powerpoint package is an exception, but it has its problems that the AAA will likely correct soon.  But textbooks are uniformly miserable.  

At a time when students are increasing their use of marijuana while decreasing their use of alcohol, it is imperative that Drivers Education reform itself to do as good a job in teaching about drugged driving as they do about drunk driving. 

In 2019, 20.6% of Colorado teens reported having used marijuana in the past 30 days compared with 29.6% having used alcohol in the same time period.  But whereas 5.9% of teens reported having driven after alcohol use in the last 30 days, 11.2% reported having driving after marijuana use in the same time period.  The 11.2% having driven came from the 20.6% having used marijuana, so we know that 54.4% of current marijuana users drove after using the drug!  That is a bit higher than the 48.8% reported by the 2017 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey [Li Li MS, Guoqing Hu, Swhwebel DC, Zhu M. Analysis of US Teen Driving After Using Marijuana, 2017.JAMA Network Open, (2020) 3(12) e2030473].

Why do we have such an alarming problem with THC-impaired driving with our youth?  It’s because our youth are being misled about the safety of THC.
As THC’s use is increasing, teens’ knowledge of the realities of THC’s effect on driving safety is being shaped by the marijuana lobby that has a reputation of minimizing the effects of THC on driving safety.  Just look at the words from the National Cannabis Industry Association, NORML, and the Drug Policy Alliance.  The media parrots the marijuana lobby, whether it be USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, or the Arizona Republic.
The unfortunately inept design of a case-controlled study sponsored by NHTSA has contributed to the misinformation stream after that study found no significant link between THC use and crash risk.  The study design was so poor that it also found no link between crash risk and the use of any other drug other than alcohol, even though the crash risks posed by other drugs have been shown to far exceed THC’s risk.  That fact is ignored by most in the media and even scientific reviewers.

Even the CDC got it wrong in 2017 when they said, “…it is unclear whether marijuana use actually increases the risk of car crashes.”  They corrected their error in 2020, but have not as of this writing, removed the erroneous advice.

DUID Victim Voices has written training material for both students and teachers of Drivers Education and is currently attempting to get this material adopted by Drivers Education professionals.


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