In the past two weeks, more than one in four U.S. high school seniors have driven after using drugs or drinking alcohol — or ridden in a vehicle with a driver who has — according to new research published in the American Journal of Public Health.
However, this is four percent less when measured in 2001. But driving after smoking marijuana has seen a small increase over the past three years.
The statistics come from the Monitoring the Future project, which gathers survey responses from 17,000 high school seniors every year. Researchers looked at data from a portion of these results taken between 2001 and 2011.
The survey included questions regarding how often the student operates a vehicle after using drugs or drinking alcohol, how often the student rides along in a car with a driver who had just used drugs or alcohol, and additional demographic information.
The findings revealed that 28 percent of high school seniors have ridden in a car with another driver who had used drugs or alcohol, or had driven after using drugs or alcohol themselves.
And although the frequency of this behavior has decreased since 2001 — when 32 percent of seniors reported driving or riding with someone under the influence — the last three years have shown an increase in driving after using marijuana, which rose from 10 percent in 2008 to 12 percent in 2011.
The findings showed that males are more likely to drive after using drugs or drinking alcohol, but there is no significant gender difference between those who rode in cars with drivers who had been using drugs or alcohol.
“Despite some considerable progress in reducing driving after using drugs or alcohol or riding with a driver who had done so, driving or riding after marijuana use is on the rise,” the authors said.
“It is also ubiquitous throughout society, socioeconomically and geographically.”