Following an ecological model to specify risks for impaired driving, we assessed the effects of youth attitudes about substance use and their experiences of riding in cars with adults and peers who drove after drinking alcohol or smoking cannabis on the youths' own driving after drinking or using cannabis.
Participants were 2594 students in grades 10 and 12 (mean age = 16 years and 2 months; 50% girls) from public high schools in urban (994) and rural communities (1600) on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada; 1192 of these were new drivers with restricted licenses. Self-report data were collected in anonymous questionnaires. Regression analyses were used to assess the independent and interacting effects of youth attitudes about substance use and their experiences of riding in cars with adults or peers who drove after drinking alcohol or smoking cannabis on youth driving.
Youth driving risk behaviors were associated independently with their own high-risk attitudes and experiences riding with peers who drink alcohol or use cannabis and drive. However, risks were highest for the youth who also report more frequent experiences of riding with adults who drink alcohol or use cannabis and drive.
Prevention efforts should be expanded to include the adults and peers who are role models for new drivers and to increase youths' awareness of their own responsibilities for their personal safety as passengers.