More and more teens think getting high on marijuana is safer than getting drunk from alcohol.
A recent study through the Florida Department of Children and Families shows teenagers who use pot were almost twice as likely to be a passenger in a car with a driver who is high, over teenagers who drink choosing to ride with a drunk driver. Teenagers surveyed across the state said they believe riding in a car with a high driver is safer than with drivers who are drunk.
The Hillsborough County's Anti-Drug Alliance is starting to take action to educate these students at a younger age.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's office has teamed up with the HCADA to talk about ways they can teach teens about the dangers of driving while high on marijuana.
"You see she nicks the cone right there," said deputy Jeremy Goff.
Goff and his partner are teaching sophomores and juniors at Newsome High School about impaired driving. They have indoor conversations as they watch videos of teenagers try to get out of a DUI ticket.
They also have a course set up outside their classroom where they peddle a special tricycle in between the cones while wearing "fatal vision" goggles, known as "beer goggles." Each cone is supposed to represent a person, or a tree, or a mailbox.
One of the students asks Deputy Goff about driving while high.
"You said it affects your driving too, like, it would the same way drinking affects your driving?"
"It does," responded Goff. "It absolutely does. Marijuana is in its own drug category. Each drug does things to your body you can't control. I always know when someone is impaired either from alcohol or drugs. It doesn't matter what you are on... the fact of the matter is, it's impaired driving. You must understand that."
17-year-old Delsie Borgen and 16-year-old Trevor Lint both have their learner's permits and they learned something new from Deputy Goff.
"They talked about when you are high on marijuana, it basically has the same effects as when you are drunk," said Lint.
"He was saying it's just the same as going in the car with somebody who is drunk, so I really don't know that much about it," said Borgen. "I was surprised."
"I didn't know how being high on marijuana could affect your vision," said Lint.
The whole point of these exercises and lessons is to show these teens what impairment looks like. So it doesn't matter whether you have been drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana, you are equally as dangerous on the road.
Deputy Goff is one of 11 deputies on a HCSO DUI squad. He arrested more than 130 drivers for DUI in last year alone, that includes alcohol and marijuana.
"There was a young person who goes to a school in this county who was arrested by me for smoking marijuana and driving," told Deputy Goff to the students.
The DUI Squad works with the HCADA to develop new strategies to educate even younger teens than just high school students. They want to start going into the middle schools.
Sgt. Troy Morgan is in charge of the DUI Squad. He said the State Department of Transportation gave their department a grant of $157,000 for this year to go into the county's high schools and teach teens about impaired driving because Hillsborough County is a one of the leading counties for DUI fatal and seriously bodily-injury crashes.
He said they will need more money from next year's grant to grow the program into the middle schools. The HCADA is working with other local organizations though to find ways of getting into the middle schools. They are hosting a town hall meeting in May with community leaders, including law enforcement, parents, and county medical personnel to further discuss a course of action.
"Marijuana is a big one that a lot of young people abuse and they think they can drive after smoking marijuana," said deputy Goff to the teens.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse tweeted out a related tweet in mid-April. It states "High school seniors who smoke marijuana are 2-times more likely to receive a ticket and 65 percent are more likely to get into a crash than those who don't smoke."
It's safe to say the blurry goggles created an eye-opening experience for these teens.
"I could barely stand up with the goggles on," said Lint. "It was a little surprising to see that was as equally as dangerous as drinking and getting behind the wheel."
"I am prepared myself to say, 'If you are high, I am not getting in the car with you.'" said Borgen.