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Impaired driving: still a danger for teens, and for more than alcohol

At some point in their life, almost every teen in America has heard about the dangers of driving drunk. From repeated public service announcements to school demonstrations, every teen is at least aware that driving drunk is risky.

But teens still drive impaired. Part of the reason is that teenagers are more likely to engage in risky behaviors than other segments of the population. Still, in part due to the constant messaging about its dangers, accidents involving drunk driving have decreased in recent years. of course, even one teen injured or killed because of drunk driving is too many.

While alcohol is known to be dangerous for drivers, many misconceptions exist about impaired driving when it comes to marijuana. Since legalization, Colorado has struggled to determine what qualifies as driving impaired from marijuana use. Many teens, and the population in general, feel that driving while high is not dangerous. On a night out, some designated "sober" drivers will not drink, but will smoke. Yet marijuana does impair a person's ability to drive.

Some studies suggest marijuana may be less dangerous than alcohol. That does not mean it is safe.

In Colorado, any driver with five nanograms of THC in his or her bloodstream is legally considered too impaired to drive safely. There are legitimate questions as to whether this limit is a reasonable measure of impairment. But as it stands, the only way to be completely sure you will not be charged with driving impaired - and to give yourself the lowest risk of getting into an accident - is to not smoke marijuana at all.

Tips For Talking To Teens About Impaired Driving

The safest course is to avoid any mind-altering substances before getting behind the wheel. If your teen is driving, he or she has likely heard this before. Still, an honest and frank conversation with your teen can go a long way toward decreasing the chance your teen will drive impaired or get into a car with an impaired driver. You may also wish to create a "driving agreement" with your teen, in writing. This agreement can lay out ground rules for driving, including a promise not to drive impaired.

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