Research Article| Volume 4, ISSUE 1, P116-121, February 2018

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Motivational factors associated with drowsy driving behavior: a qualitative investigation of college students

  • Kenneth H. Beck
    Corresponding author at: Department of Behavioral and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Maryland, 4200 Valley Dr, College Park, MD 20742, U.S.A. Tel.: +1 301 405 2527.
    Department of Behavioral and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA
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  • Clark J. Lee
    Department of Behavioral and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA

    Center for Health and Homeland Security & Center for Health Outcomes Research, University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA
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  • Talia Weiner
    Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA
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Published:December 01, 2017DOI:



      This qualitative investigation sought to identify the motivational factors that contribute to drowsy driving in college students and to discover important messaging strategies that may help prevent or reduce this behavior in this population.


      Four focus groups of college students.


      A large university in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area during the Fall 2016 term.


      Twenty-six undergraduate students between the ages of 18 and 25 years.


      Notes and transcripts from the focus group sessions were analyzed to identify recurring themes regarding attitudes, motivations, experiences, influences, and potential preventive messaging strategies related to drowsy driving.


      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 and distracted driving as crash risks. Participants viewed drowsy driving as a normal and unavoidable part of their lives over which they had little control. For potential anti–drowsy driving messaging strategies, participants preferred messages delivered via audiovisual or social media that featured graphic and emotional portrayals of crashes and their consequences. Participants also voiced strong support for preventive messaging strategies equating various degrees of sleep deprivation to known impairing levels of alcohol, as well as messages providing cues to action to actual drowsy drivers on roadways.


      Increased enforcement, education, and public messaging campaigns are needed to increase knowledge and influence attitudes and opinions among young drivers about the dangers and social unacceptability of drowsy driving.


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