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Risky drinking, driving behaviors common among U.S. college students

A new study investigated associations between hazardous drinking and (1) driving after consuming alcohol, (2) falling asleep while driving, (3) sending a text message while driving, and (4) reading a text message while driving among college students. Participants (N = 1,298) were a convenience sample of undergraduate students at one U.S. institution who completed an anonymous online survey on which they reported their hazardous drinking behavior (assessed using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test-Consumption [AUDIT-C] screen), risky driving behaviors in the past 30 days, and sociodemographic characteristics. The sample was 70.4% non-Hispanic White and 63.4% female. Data were analyzed using two-step regression. Results indicated the average hazardous drinking score was 3.3. (standard deviation [SD] = 2.7) on a scale from 0 – 4, where higher scores indicated higher levels of hazardous drinking. Over 90% of participants reported not drinking and driving and over 80% reported not falling asleep while driving in the past month; however, 81.7% reported reading a text message while driving and 75.3% reported sending a text message while driving. The full multivariate model indicated hazardous drinking score was positively associated with drinking and driving (Step 2 odds ratio [OR] = 1.28, 95% CI: 1.18, 1.38) and sending a text message while driving (Step 2 b = 0.19, p = 0.01), controlling for gender, race, and legal drinking status (underage vs. 21 years or older). Hazardous drinking score was also significantly positively related with reading a text while driving (Step 1 b=0.14, p < 0.001) and falling asleep while driving (Step 1 b = 0.02, p = 0.02), controlling for demographic characteristics alone. In the full model, the following risky driving behaviors were significantly positively related: Drinking and driving and reading a text message while driving (Step 2 b = 0.16, p = 0.02); drinking and driving and falling asleep while driving (Step 2 b = 0.32, p < 0.001); reading a text message while driving and sending a text message while driving (Step 2 b = 0.93, p < 0.001); and sending a text message while driving and falling asleep while driving (Step 2 b = 0.12, p = 0.001). Limitations of this study included its reliance on self-report and recall of driving and drinking behaviors.

Take away: Over three-quarters of participants in this study reported texting while driving. Participants’ hazardous drinking scores were positively associated with texting and falling asleep at the wheel and co-variability was observed among multiple risky driving behaviors.

Martin, R.J., Cox, M.J., Chaney, B.H. & Knowlden, A.P.  (2018). Examination of associations between risky driving behaviors and hazardous drinking among a sample of college students. Traffic Injury Prevention [published online ahead of print June 21, 2018] doi: 10.1080/15389588.2018.1476690

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