Tragedy comes to teens who risk riding with stoned drivers

Driving with friends when they’re stoned

Read Part 1 and Part 2.   Many teens have heard “stoned is safer than drunk.” In the social media, the pot advocates claim to drive more carefully when high on pot.  Long-time pot users say ridiculous things which make young people think they’re immune to tragedy.  Smoking pot and driving is not safe, and it’s foolish to guess which risky behavior is more dangerous than another.

Too many teens take a risk by getting into the cars of friends or classmates who have been smoking pot.  Marijuana was a factor in the crash that killed Darion Wheeler, 18, Destinee Wheeler, 15, and Paul McEwan, 20.  It shocked a small Wyoming town when they died last March.

The smell of burnt marijuana permeated the car which was involved in accident that killed three teens near Toledo, Ohio, on August 3. Joshua Coy, 19, Barbara Redfern, 18 and Cora Roob, 19 died that day, while the driver of the other vehicle had no injuries. Marijuana was found in the car the teens were using.

A similar situation happened in Ohio in May, when Lindsey Rotuno’s prom date drove under the influence of marijuana. She died right away, but he survived.

Two females and one male were killed in a one-car crash in Liberty Township, Ohio, June 26, 2014. The driver combined marijuana and speed. Photo: Sara Tobias/The Advocate

Linzie Bell, 15, Cheyenne Spurgeon, 15, and Michael Hoskinson, 17, died instantly in a crash June 26, 2014. They rode with a friend who drove under the influence on marijuana, as the car split into two when it hit a tree. The 16-year-old driver had 45 ng. of marijuana, while the backseat passengers had no alcohol or drugs.  Speed was a factor, too.

Stoned drivers speed, too

So much  evidence crushes the marijuana industry’s claim that people  drive more slowly under the influence of pot.

Rodriguez Franklin, 19,  was high on marijuana when he caused the wreck that killed two friends in Kansas City.  The passengers, Kaeden Hernandez and Zachary Meyer, both 18, died instantly.  Franklin faces two counts of felony driving while intoxicated leading to death, or in the alternative, two counts of first-degree involuntary manslaughter. Franklin lost control of the car, struck a curb then a large tree. Witnesses told police Franklin’s vehicle was traveling between 100 and 120 mph.

The message told to teens, that marijuana is safer than alcohol, has led to too many deaths. Don’t drive when high, nor get into the car of someone who has used pot

In 2015, a 17-year old from Olympic High School in Bremerton, Washington drove 75 miles per hour, hit a tree, rolled and landed upside down in a ditch.  The accident killed 3 of his schoolmates: Jenna Farley, 14, Kassidy Clark, 16, and Luther Stroudermire, 18.  He was going 75 in a 45-mile-per-hour zone.

Kevin Ward Jr., a race car driver, died when he got out of his car in the middle of a race  on August 9, 2014. Kevin Ward Jr. He had been sideswiped by Tony Stewart’s car during the previous round but scrambled out of his car to confront the driver going over 100 mph.  Toxicology reports revealed that Ward had THC in his system which may explain why he would be so irrational as to confront someone going that speed.  It also suggests that Ward found excitement in the combination of marijuana and speed.

The Long Island crash the rocked a community

A teen driver was high on marijuana and speeding when he hit a tree, split the car and killed four of his friends in Long Island. Driving after using pot is not safer than drunk driving.

Joseph Beer killed four of his friends when he was stoned and speeding on a Long Island Parkway and his car split in two.  He was 17 at the time.  Beer had smoked and was driving more than 100 miles per hour.  Beer was a daily marijuana user, and tried to use his CUD, cannabis use disorder. in his defense. He will serve a 4-year term in prison.  Constant publicity about marijuana legalization and the “marijuana is safer” message may have influenced the friends who had no qualms about riding in Beer’s car.

Similar incidences of three or four teens died riding with an impaired friend have ended in tragedy throughout the country.  Mothers Against Drugged Driving (MADD) has warned that drunk driving causes death, but teens think marijuana is ok.  We need to correct the perceptions about stoned driving.

In these cases specific involving multiple deaths, marijuana was the only drug the drivers had used.  Many of the stoned drivers were speeding, also, which contradicts the popular claim that stoned drivers go slower.

Teens need to understand that getting in the car with someone who has been using marijuana endangers them.  It’s not safer to get stoned.  We can trace this harmful message to the lobbyists, especially the Marijuana Policy Project.   They wrote a book, Marijuana is Safer, back in 2009 and urged DARE to exclude marijuana from school anti-drug programs. Read Part 1: Time to get mad against stoned driving, and Part 2: Time to change attitudes about stoned driving.