Behavioral Health, Mental Health, Substance Abuse
Cognitive and Motivational Factors Associated with Drowsy Driving Behavior in College Students
(School of Public Health (UMD) Behavioral and Community Health Doctoral Student)
Objectives: Young drivers are among the most at-risk group prone to drowsy driving. This investigation sought to investigate the factors that contribute to drowsy driving in college students, and to discover important messaging strategies that may help prevent/reduce this behavior. Approach: A series of qualitative focus group interviews were conducted with 26 college students at a major university. Notes were taken during the interviews and verbatim transcripts were produced and analyzed to determine the major themes regarding drowsy driving influences and countermeasures that might be developed. Findings: Although most participants had heard of drowsy driving and were concerned about it, they did not associate it with legal risks and were more concerned about alcohol-impaired driving as a crash risk. They viewed drowsy driving as a normal part of their lives and had little control over it. Participants indicated a preference for strong anti-drowsy driving messages to prevent this behavior (delivered via TV or through social media), featuring graphic and emotional portrayals of crash and human carnage. Additional suggestions included relating drowsy driving to alcohol-impaired driving and equating various degrees of sleep deprivation to known impairing levels of alcohol (BAC > .08). Conclusions: Increased enforcement and media campaigns are needed to influence the next generation of young drivers that drowsy driving is unsafe and socially unacceptable. Public Health Significance: Drowsy driving is a major traffic safety problem accounting for more than 300,000 automobile crashes each year, including 6,400 fatal crashes. Prevention programs that will effectively reduce this problem require an understanding of the important cognitive and motivational factors underlying this problem in an at-risk population.