Driving under the influence (DUI) of psychoactive substances is an issue of paramount concern in both public health and the criminal justice system. It affects millions of Americans yearly, and while there is extensive research on DUI among adults, the specific impact on younger and underage drivers has been less explored1. A recently published research article from the Addictive Behaviors Journal sheds light on the prevalence and critical associations between DUI of marijuana and alcohol among drivers aged 16 to 20 in the United States. Data was pulled from an extensive, nationally representative survey based on information from the 2020 and 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health and found the following:
DUI of Marijuana: The prevalence of DUI involving marijuana was found to be alarmingly high at 6.3%1. However, this figure dramatically escalated among young individuals who had used marijuana in the past year, reaching a staggering 24.5%1.
DUI of Alcohol: DUI involving alcohol was also a significant concern, with a prevalence rate of 2.6% among youth drivers1. Among those who reported consuming alcohol in the past year, this figure increased to 6.1%1.
The study also revealed certain demographic trends associated with an increased risk of DUI among youth. Both DUI of marijuana and alcohol showed elevated risk among older and male youth1, emphasizing the importance of targeting prevention efforts for newly licensed drivers and those who have been on the road for a longer period. The findings from this study are a huge cause for concern as the data indicates more than one million young drivers in the United States each year are jeopardizing not only their lives but also the lives of others by operating motor vehicles after consuming marijuana and/or alcohol1. The effects of drivers choosing to be under the influence of marijuana while operating their vehicle have fatal consequences, such is the case with Jennifer’s tragic story.
With the changing landscape of marijuana regulations, the growing media attention on illicit substances, and the societal normalization of alcohol consumption; It is crucial to enhance efforts to educate the public about the hazards associated with substance use and counter the narratives pushed by profit-oriented addiction industries.
This underscores the urgency of implementing robust prevention and recovery strategies aimed at curbing impaired driving among underage individuals. By addressing the issue at its root causes and promoting awareness, we can work towards a safer future on the roads for both young drivers and the general public.