On Jan. 1, Massachusetts became the first state in the country where the use of marijuana for recreational purposes is legal to implement a program that educates young drivers about the dangers of getting behind the wheel while under the influence of the drug. The training course, which is based on a curriculum developed by AAA Northeast, will be taken by approximately 50,000 teenage student drivers each year at 460 driving schools across the Bay State.
Marijuana use on the rise
AAA Northeast created the teen driver safety course after conducting studies in several New England states that revealed teenagers find it easier to procure marijuana than purchase alcohol. Marijuana legalization and the ease with which the drug can be acquired in states where it is still prohibited have led to a surge in marijuana-related motor vehicle accidents and fatalities. According to a report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in December, one in four of the drivers killed on the nation’s roads between 2020 and 2022 used marijuana before they crashed.
Student drivers who take the course will be shown a 25-minute video dealing with the effects tetrahydrocannabinol has on the human body. THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana, and it slows reactions, diminishes cognitive skills and warps the perception of distance and time. Using marijuana before driving can lead to a OUI charge, but police do not yet have an accurate and reliable way to test motorists for the presence of the drug.
Massachusetts leads the way
Drug use and alcohol consumption greatly increase the chances of being involved in a serious accident, and inexperienced drivers face the highest risks. Massachusetts is setting an example for the rest of the country by being the first state to put a marijuana-related drivers education program into place. The program teaches young drivers about the way marijuana affects thinking and reactions, and it warns them about the dangers of using the drug before driving.