A survey was conducted to assess the perceptions, attitudes and practices of high school students concerning marijuana use and driving. A 72-variable questionnaire was administered in 100 high schools located in sixty communities in 16 states and one Canadian province. A total of 5457 valid questionnaires were obtained from approximately equal numbers of males and females. The non-random sample can be described as predominantly white and middle class with a small representation of other ethnic and socio-economic groups. Approximately three-quarters of the respondents live in the Northeastern United States. The states of New York and Pennsylvania account for 45% of the sample. This geographic distribution is important since the Northeastern region is reported to have the highest marijuana use rates in the United States (Johnston et al., 1980). These sample characteristics should be kept in mind in interpreting the data. The data show that marijuana users tend to view the effects of the drug more favorably than non-users. Similarly current users make more positive statements about marijuana effects than past users. Nonetheless, more than half of the total "ever-used" group judge driving skills to be harmed by marijuana. On the whole, respondents appear to rather accurately evaluate the general effects of marijuana, as well as the effects on driving. In spite of this positive finding there clearly are potential traffic safety problems associated with marijuana use by high school age drivers. First, many students believe that driving while really high is ill-advised but that driving after a few puffs of marijuana is safe. The difficulty with this kind of qualification in terms of the level of intoxication or the amount of marijuana is that the individual's assessment of his/her own state may be quite inaccurate. Further, it has not been established that a driver is unimpaired after a few puffs of marijuana. A second source of traffic safety problems is apparent in the expression of an attitude that "driving while high is o.k. for me." This assertion frequently is made by the same individual who recognizes that it is unsafe for others to drive after smoking and who will not ride with another driver who is high. The rationale for self-exemption from safety considerations is not given in the questionnaire data. Finally, there are marijuana users who agree that it is unsafe to drive while high on marijuana but indicate that they do it anyway. This relatively small number of drivers know that they are behaving in a potentially dangerous manner when they elect to drive after smoking. Drug education efforts should continue to provide scientifically valid information about marijuana to high school students, many of who are or will become marijuana users. At the present time, a majority of adolescents can be expected to have at least some experience with the drug, and they need to be as fully informed about its effects as possible. In addition, it appears that considerable emphasis should be given to responsible social behaviors and driving practices in relation to drug use. (Author)

  • Corporate Authors:

    Southern California Research Institute

    6305 Arizona Place
    Los Angeles, CA  United States  90045

    AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

    8111 Gatehouse Road
    Falls Church, VA  United States  22047
  • Authors:
    • Burns, M
  • Publication Date: 1981

Media Info

  • Features: Appendices; Figures; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 78 p.

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00335718
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: HS-032 552
  • Files: HSL, TRIS
  • Created Date: Oct 28 1981 12:00AM