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Alcohol and Marijuana Use Patterns Associated With Unsafe Driving Among U.S. High School Seniors: High Use Frequency, Concurrent Use, and Simultaneous Use [OPEN ACCESS]

Yvonne M. Terry-McElrath, Patrick M. O'Malley, Lloyd D. Johnston

Objective: This article examines noncausal associations between high school seniors' alcohol and marijuana use status and rates of self-reported unsafe driving in the past 12 months. Method: Analyses used data from 72,053 students collected through annual surveys of nationally representative cross-sectional samples of U.S. 12th-grade students from 1976 to 2011. Two aspects of past-12-month alcohol and marijuana use were examined: (a) use frequency and (b) status as a nonuser, single substance user, concurrent user, or simultaneous user. Measures of past-12-month unsafe driving included any tickets/warnings or accidents, as well as tickets/warnings or accidents following alcohol or marijuana use. Analyses explored whether an individual's substance use frequency and simultaneous use status had differential associations with their rate of unsafe driving. Results: Higher substance use frequency (primarily alcohol use frequency) was significantly and positively associated with unsafe driving. The rate of engaging in any unsafe driving was also significantly and positively associated with simultaneous use status, with the highest rate associated with simultaneous use, followed by concurrent use, followed by use of alcohol alone. Individuals who reported simultaneous use most or every time they used marijuana had the highest likelihood of reporting unsafe driving following either alcohol or marijuana use. Conclusions: This article expands the knowledge on individual risk factors associated with unsafe driving among teens. Efforts to educate U.S. high school students (especially substance users), parents, and individuals involved in prevention programming and driver's education about the increased risks associated with various forms of drug use status may be useful. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs, 75, 378389, 2014)