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College Attendance and Risk-Related Driving Behavior in a National Sample of Young Adults

Mallie J. Paschall

Objective: This study examined and sought to explain the relationship between college attendance and indicators of risk-related driving (drinking and driving, seatbelt use) among young adults who participated in the 1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA). Method: In-home interview data collected from 11,549 18- 25 year olds were analyzed to examine the relationship between full- or part-time college status, drinking and driving and seatbelt use. Logistic regression analyses were conducted to determine whether full- or part-time college attendance would be associated with drinking and driving and seatbelt use when adjusting for demographics and age of onset of alcohol use, and whether these relationships would be explained by place of residence (e.g., dormitory), psychosocial factors (e.g., propensity for risk taking, disapproval of driving after drinking) and past-month heavy drinking. Results: The prevalence of drinking and driving in the past year was highest for full-time college students (34.2%), followed by part-time students (32.8%) and other young adults (27.9%). Full-time students were also more likely to report always wearing a seatbelt as a driver (76.1%) or passenger (70.1%) than were part-time students (71.8%, 68.6%) and other young adults (62.7%, 56.7%). These relationships persisted when adjusting for demographic characteristics and age of onset of alcohol use. The higher level of drinking and driving among full-time students was partially explained by psychosocial factors and past-month heavy drinking, but the higher level of drinking and driving among part-time students was not explained by these variables. The higher levels of seatbelt use among full- and part-time college students were also not explained by place of residence, psychosocial factors or heavy drinking. Conclusions: College students are more likely than other young adults to drink and drive, but are also more likely to wear a seatbelt as a driver or passenger. This pattern of drinking and driving behavior may help to explain similar rates of fatal alcohol-related traffic crashes among college students and other young adults. Additional research is needed to better understand why college students are more likely to drink and drive and wear seatbelts than other young adults in the same age group. (J. Stud. Alcohol 64: 43-49, 2003)