Using data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) from 2002–2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published a report which provides the most recent self-reported national estimates of driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, and alcohol and marijuana combined among persons 16–25 years of age.
Auto accidents are the leading cause of death among youth and young adults aged 16–25 years. On the positive side, drinking and driving among high school students aged 16–19 years has declined by 54%. Despite that encouraging news, according to the CDC, the weekend nighttime driving under the influence of marijuana among drivers aged ≥16 years has increased by 48%. Use of marijuana alone and in combination with alcohol has been shown to impair driving abilities.
With the increasing amount of mobile phone use while driving, especially social media and mobile internet usage, the safety of young adult drivers and other drivers on the road presents a growing concern. Authorities have ramped up their focus on both distracted driving and driving under the influence of alcohol or there substances.
Public safety interventions such as minimum legal age drinking laws, the illegality of driving with any alcohol level >0 for anyone 21 years old or younger, targeted mass media campaigns, roadside testing such as sobriety checkpoints, and graduated driver licensing programs have contributed to the decline in driving under the influence of alcohol in the youth and young adult population. The CDC encourages that these (or similar) interventions might be useful to prevent driving under the influence of other substances, such as marijuana.
Despite the decline in reported driving under the influence of alcohol alone and alcohol and marijuana combined from 2002 to 2014, data from the 2014 NSDUH indicate that 60% of young adults aged 18–25 years used alcohol during the past month, 38% engaged in binge drinking, and 20% had used marijuana. Marijuana is the illicit drug most frequently used in this age group. Clearly, efforts need to increase to combat these lethal issues.
According to the CDC, “Youth and young adult driving under the influence of any psychoactive substance is an important public health problem that needs the attention of parents, public health officials, law enforcement, and federal and state officials.”