During the early 1980s, there were more than 5,000 drunk driving fatalities among drivers under age 21. Fast forward 33 years later: The number of drunk driving fatalities involving underage youth has decreased nearly 80% since 1982. Through education, awareness, and prevention efforts, young people have received their license knowing that driving drunk is dangerous, illegal, and socially unacceptable.
While the rates of drunk driving have decreased significantly, we have seen a rise in another form of impaired driving, driving under the influence of drugs of DUID. Young drivers are now overrepresented among the drugged driving (DUID) population. Concern about the frequency of drugged driving among youth is high, as the combination of impairment and lack of driving experience increases their risk relative to other age groups of being involved in a collision.
The drug most commonly detected in young drivers (both in fatal collisions and at roadside stop) is marijuana. Scientists have yet to determine relative risk associated with driving under the influence of cannabis, however studies have shown that it impairs coordination and concentration which results in an inability to perform divided attention tasks, slower reaction time, poor speed maintenance, and steering corrections. Combine these deficits with driver inexperience and you have a recipe for crashes.
Teens have many misperceptions about drugged driving to address and overcome, but we have the advantage of decades of experience fostering awareness about drunk driving. The same principles and strategies that resulted in massive reductions in youth drunk driving can now be applied to educate young people about the dangers of drugged driving. Through the use of targeted campaigns and prevention initiatives, communities can provide factual information, engage in constructive dialogue, and mobilize to change youth attitudes and perceptions about DUID. Paramount to the success of these initiatives is the inclusion of peer-to-peer support, engagement of parents, and mobilization of the community-at-large.
Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) is partnering with the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsilbity.org) to support a youth-led effort to create laws that prevent drugged driving. Working together with youth we hope to bring awareness that drugged driving is as dangerous as drunk driving and laws need to be in place to prevent drugged driving.
With chapter roots that run deep and strong within your school, grassroots chapter advocacy is one of the most successful forms of social change. Indeed, when the founding fathers wrote the Constitution they recognized that the right of citizens to petition our government was paramount to the success of our Democracy. In simplest terms, grassroots advocates raise the level of awareness regarding certain causes and issues at either the local, state, or federal levels. Our purpose with the Knockout DUID is that you, the grassroots advocate, can influence school and community perception, regulations, or public policy such as legislation.