When Not to Take the High Road


           You stumble down front porch steps, shrieking with laughter at nothing in particular. You pull out your phone, and after 3 wrong password entries you’re able to open it up and look at the time. Crap. You have ten minutes to get home, and the subway has long stopped running. “Hey man, you wanna ride?” Your equally-hammered friend staggers beside you, throws his keys up in the air, and watches them fall. Even in your inebriated state, you shake your head at the idiot beside you. “No thanks,” you say, with great superiority, “I don’t get into cars with drunk drivers. What are you, stupid?” As you strut off towards Yonge Street (maybe you’ll just take a cab), a blue minivan pulls up beside, Lil’ Wayne’s “Lollipop” blasting in your ears. “Hey babe, wanna ride?” Your BFF, who (only minutes ago) was hitting bowls with you (for all you niners, that’s a method of smoking weed), nods to the back where an empty seat is calling your name. You eye her suspiciously, and ask “Have you been drinking?” Your friend haughtily replies, “Dude, drinking and driving is for idiots, of course not.” You slide open the door and hop into the seat, content that you have found a safe and quick way home. Right? Wrong.

            Though most of us don’t get into cars with a drunk driver, teens are finding it hard to turn down a ride from a driver who is high. But it’s time to realize that driving high is as bad an idea as McCain choosing Palin as his running mate. In 2001, the Ontario Student Drug Use Survey found that 20 % more students were driving high than driving drunk. Why could this be? Well, marijuana is as easily accessible and socially acceptable as chocolate cake (which, funnily enough, is a favourite among stoners), and therefore many teens are likely to smoke a joint or hit a bowl or two. So now we’re surrounded by a bunch of rowdy teens armed with access to daddy’s car, prematurely-granted G2s, weed, and all necessary dope-smoking paraphernalia. Unfortunately, they are also equipped with information as accurate and up to date as NT’s website.

            *Kenneth, a grade 12 North Toronto student lives by the motto “the higher, the wiser.” Many North Toronto students seem to agree, saying they are “more cautious and aware when [they] drive high”. Some even go as far as to say that they “drive better high than [they] do sober.” Well that’s reassuring. Turns out (big surprise) that cannabis actually negatively affects key driving skills, like reaction time and ability to pay attention. So where did this false mindset come from? There’s no real culprit, so I guess we can go ahead and blame our 21st century devil – the media. Unfortunately, thanks to an overwhelming and constant campaign by MADD spreading awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving, the few ads we see about driving high (yes, that one with the talking rolling papers) seem insignificant – and send us the message that driving high is not as bad as (and therefore better than) driving drunk.

            For those of us who are actually educated on the effects of driving high, what’s our excuse? Well, unfortunately a ride at the end of a hard night is sometimes too tempting to resist (especially as winter approaches). No one enjoys stumbling to the subway (making sure to catch the last train before the TTC closes), or paying the recently-jacked-up cab fare. No one likes to call their parents to get picked up while music pounds and fellow partiers laugh and scream in the background, totally blowing your cover about watching a movie at a friend’s house. And no one wants to leave the party by 11:30 to catch that bus, to get to that station, to ride that train, to jog that ten minute walk, to be home by that 1 o’clock curfew. Then again, no one likes to eat vegetables, get a good night’s sleep, or do homework. But we consistently do things that we don’t like to do because we know that in the long run it’ll all pay off. We’ll in this case, it doesn’t.

            Next time you’re offered a ride by someone whose eyes are the colour of tomatoes, and who has just single-handedly finished off a cake, take the subway instead (or a cab, or walk or bike or rollerblade). Because this is the one time you shouldn’t take the high road.