(Elaine Thompson/AP Photo)

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released data this week showing that America's teenagers and young adults are much less likely to drive drunk than they used to be -- but the rate of driving while stoned has been slower to improve.

Between 2002 and 2014, "the prevalence of driving under the influence of alcohol alone and alcohol and marijuana combined significantly declined among persons aged 16–20 years and 21–25 years," SAMHSA concluded. Among 16- to 20-year-olds, the drunk driving rate fell 59 percent. Among the 21 to 25 set, the rate fell by 38 percent.

Driving under the influence of booze and weed combined fell by smaller amounts, while stoned driving alone fell by even smaller -- essentially negligible -- numbers.


As SAMHSA notes, motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of death among 16- to 25-year-olds in the United States. So naturally, any reduction in DUI rates among that age group is welcome.

The data also weaken an argument by opponents of marijuana legalization. From 2002 to 2014, voters approved medical marijuana laws in 15 states and approved recreational weed in four more. Legalization opponents have warned that loosening pot restrictions would lead to more stoned driving. But as the numbers above show, it appears that hasn't happened, at least not among young adults.

More from Wonkblog:

Teen pot use holds steady in first year of legal weed, new federal data show

Marijuana may be even safer than previously thought, researchers say

Federal court tells the DEA to stop harassing medical marijuana providers

Correction: The drunk driving data was released and analyzed by SAMHSA, and published by the CDC