Roughly a third of recent high school graduates have ridden in a motor vehicle with a substance-impaired driver, according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions. The study found that during the first two years after high school graduation, 23 percent of young adults had ridden with a marijuana-impaired driver at least once, while 20 percent had ridden with an alcohol-impaired driver, and 6 percent had ridden with a driver impaired by glue or solvents or harder, illicit drugs, such as amphetamines, opioids or cocaine.
The analysis was conducted by researchers at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD); Colorado State University, Fort Collins; the Colorado School of Public Health, Denver; and Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. Their results appear in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
The authors analyzed data from NICHD’s NEXT Generation Health Study, a seven-year study of more than 2,700 U.S. adolescents starting at grade 10. Its goal is to identify the social, behavioral and genetic factors linked to health and healthy behaviors. Along with NICHD, funding for the NEXT Generation Health Study was provided by NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration.
The authors noted that having ridden with an impaired driver in the past was linked to a higher risk of driving while impaired and of riding with an impaired driver in the future. Other factors that increased the risk for riding with an impaired driver were living alone and not attending a four-year college. For young adults in the study who attended a four-year college, living on campus increased their risk of riding with an impaired driver.
The authors called for enhancements to informational programs that educate young people on the risks of riding with impaired drivers.
Bruce Simons-Morton, Ed.D., Health Behavior Branch, NICHD.
Li, K. et al. Emerging adults riding with marijuana, alcohol, or illicit drug-impaired peer and older drivers. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 79(2), 277-286. doi:10.15288/jsad.2018.79.277.
About the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD): NICHD conducts and supports research in the United States and throughout the world on fetal, infant and child development; maternal, child and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation. For more information, visit NICHD’s website.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.