Few tasks are more depressing for a reporter than writing a story about a young person who has been killed in an auto accident.
When a photo of the victim is available, it almost invariably shows a bright, handsome, intelligent face filled with the joy of life. One must have a heart of stone not to be touched by such events.
For parents, the anguish is almost unbearable. They, too, were once young enough to be unaware of the dangers inherent in driving, but they were lucky enough to survive the accidents and near-accidents of their youth.
They learned a lesson, but they find it difficult to teach that lesson to their children. Attempted safety lectures are cut short with, "Oh, Dad, I'm not a child any more. I know how to drive."
Only parents who are willing to risk the disapproval of their children can hope to teach and discipline them properly. Nationwide death and accident statistics indicate that we parents have not been effective teachers.
Today, marijuana compounds the dangers of driving an automobile. Surveys indicate that 16 million Americans have smoked marijuana during the past month. Most users are of driving age: young and relatively inexperienced -- so inexperienced they think they are excellent drivers.
Traffic Safety, a reliable journal published by the National Safety Council, reports that 60 percent of our high school seniors have tried marijuana and that 10 percent use marijuana on a daily basis by the time they are graduated. In a Gallup Poll taken in late 1978, nearly one-fifth of all male teen-aged drivers admitted they had driven while "high" on marijuana, but other studies indicate the percentage is acutally higher. Testimony before the Illinois Motor Vehicle Laws Commission stated that twice as many teen-agers are now driving under the influence of marijuana as under the influence of alcohol.
Is marijuana dangerous? If you suggest that it is, you are likely to get an all-the-other-kids response from your son or daughter. "Oh, Dad," they say, with "Dad" disapprovingly pronounced as if it were a two-syllable word, "all the other kids do it. You're living in the past."
Traffic Safety says a vast amount of medical evidence clearly shows that marijuana is a drug that produces complex effects. It depresses the brain. Like alcohol, it produces a relaxed, drowsy, even dreamy state. It releases inhibitions. Reflexes are slowed, reaction time is increased. Judgment is impaired. Perceptions of both space and time are altered. A driver suffering from marijuana intoxication is significantly less able to cope with the "unexpected and random events" that every driver encounters.
Are you willing to try to keep your child alive? If you are, please do what you can to open his mind to currently available scientific evidence that our young people are being killed by automobiles driven by people who are under the influence of marijuana and alcohol.