Research Papers

Drowsy and Distracted Driving: The Perception of Risk among Young Novice Drivers

Filename cmrsc19_65.pdf
Filesize 107 KB
Version 1
Date added June 7, 2009
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Category 2009–CMRSC-XIX–Saskatoon
Tags Session 2B
Author/Auteur Ashlie Nadler, Henry Moller, Mary Chipman


To determine the risks perceived by adolescents and young adults concerning drowsy or distracted driving and other risk factors, a questionnaire was administered to 36 participants attending classes at a Toronto driving school. Eligible participants were aged 16-24 years and had Ontario G1 or G2 licenses; i.e., either level of graduated license. Respondents provided demographic information and rated perceptions of risk of falling asleep while driving and of a motor vehicle collision in different circumstances using scores 1-5 on a Likert scale. Validated scales were used to measure sleepiness (Epworth Sleepiness Scale), alertness (Toronto Hospital Alertness Test) and symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (Part A of ASRS v. 1.0).
Nearly all respondents had G1 licenses; i.e., the lowest level in the Ontario Graduated Licensing System. Risk perceptions were highest for crashes associated with alcohol (4.75), text messaging (4.64) and using a cell phone (4.47). Risk perceptions were lowest for crashes associated with listening to music (2.78), or driving after stress at work or school (2.81). Awareness of the risk of becoming drowsy while driving (2.92) or falling asleep when driving at night (3.17) were also relatively low, although the perceived risks of a crash when either drowsy or distracted were higher and equivalent (3.86). Almost two-thirds (61%) of the respondents were clinically sleepy when tested, and one-third showed decreased alertness; 34% had test results “highly consistent” with ADHD (according to proponents of the scale used). The prevalence of these states is significantly higher than published estimates (P < 0.01) and is particularly remarkable as this was a community-based rather than clinical sample, and respondents were not seeking symptomatic treatment. Despite the high prevalence of sleepiness detected, participants appear relatively unaware of the problems of drowsiness while driving. Awareness training, as part of driving school curricula, or modifications to the Graduated Licensing System, may improve this situation.

Ashlie Nadler, Henry Moller, Mary Chipman