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Lessons from the Road: Tips for Parents of New Teen Drivers
National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign

Getting a driver's license is a milestone in a teen's life. Each year, some 9,000 16- and 17-year-olds get behind the wheel nationwide with their driver's licenses. Young drivers are already at risk for car crashes, due to the combination of driving inexperience and distractions, such as having additional passengers in the car, eating or talking on cell phones. In fact, collisions are the leading cause of death for young people aged 15-20. These accident risks are greater when the driver is using illicit drugs, such as marijuana, as well.

Parents need to know that drugged driving can be lethal. A majority of licensed teen drivers who use drugs regularly report that they "drug and drive." An estimated 38,000 high school seniors in the United States crashed in 2001 after driving under the influence of marijuana in 2001.

Here are some guidelines parents can follow to help their teen "steer clear of pot":

Know What's in the Car: One of the most common places high school seniors report smoking marijuana is in their cars. There are numerous products on the market that disguise drugs and drug paraphernalia as everyday items, such as soda cans and CD cases, which teens can easily carry in cars without attracting attention. Parents should become familiar with these items - and other hiding places for drugs - and conduct occasional car checks.

Map Out a Plan: Set limits on driving, especially in high-risk conditions such as at night or on the highway, in poor weather conditions and with other teens in the car. Limit your teen from riding with other new drivers, and make sure he or she never gets in a car with other teens who have been drinking or using drugs.

Take Caution: Know where your teen is and who he or she is with. Get to know your teen's friends and their friends' parents. Be sure you know the route they intend to drive when they go out.

Establish Pit Stops: Develop a check-in time with your teen-a time when your child calls in and gives a status of where he or she is and who he or she is with.

Go for a Spin: Reinforce safe driving skills with your teen even after he or she has a license by going for drives together. This can also be a good time to catch up and have an open conversation about important issues like drugs.

To keep teen drivers safe on the road, many states are imposing rules regarding the number of passengers teen drivers can have in the car, cell phone usage and the number of hours new drivers can be on the road. Be sure to check with your state's Department of Transportation Web site for specific details.

For more information on marijuana and driving safety visit www.theantidrug.com/teendriving. The site also offers a free teen driving kit and online quiz for parents. The kit can also be ordered by calling 1-800-788-2800.

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