Study Finds 1 in 5 Teens Have Driven High

Just when I think I have this whole parenting thing figured out, the game changes.  With my oldest daughter preparing for middle school, I feel like I have a pretty firm grip on the perils of upper elementary school (limiting makeup to lip gloss only and teaching her how to be responsible with her first cell phone).

What I’m not prepared for yet is the reality that marijuana use is at an all-time high among eighth- through 12th-grade kids. Scarier yet, 19 percent of teens admit to having driven after smoking pot, according to a study conducted by SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions).

As parents, we seem to have done a fairly thorough job instilling the importance of not driving after drinking alcohol, but we’ve apparently been slacking on relaying the dangers of driving after smoking marijuana (the same study found that, of those who admitted to driving under the influence of pot, 36 percent said it presented no distraction).

So, what steps can we take as parents to help ensure our teens’ safety in cars as they experiment and sometimes stumble their way through adolescence?

Draft a driving contract

When your teen starts driving, put a safe driving contract into place. You can draft one from scratch yourself, or download a Parent-Teen Driving Contract template. Your teen can also go a step further and make a public promise. Along with the basics, like when and where your teen is allowed to drive, it should spell out the fact that your teen will never drive while under the influence of anything (or get into a car with someone else in that same state), or even when they’re too tired to think coherently.

Put a plan in place

Be sure to let your teen driver know that they can call you at any hour of the day or night for a safe ride home without consequences, and back your word by putting it on paper in the safe driving contract. If they’re not comfortable coming to you for this, you can list an alternate contact—a “cool” aunt, for example—who knows to deliver your teen home safely and discreetly.

Give your teen an easy out

To make it easy for your teen to refuse a ride from a pressuring peer who may be under the influence, implement a way out. For some, it could be something as simple as texting a code word to a parent, who then knows to put the parental kibosh on the night. For example, the code word could be “funnn,” spelled with 3 Ns: “hving gr8 funnn at Sophie’s.” Mom then knows to book it over to Sophie’s house (or around the corner from Sophie’s house) for a pickup.

What other plans have you and your family implemented to help keep your teens and their friends from succumbing to the temptation of driving under the influence? Share your ideas with other parents in the comments section below.

Kristin Varela is the senior family editor at, a leading destination for online car shoppers.