Drinking and driving among college students: The influence of alcohol-control policies

Henry Wechsler, Jae Eun Lee, Toben F. Nelson, Hang Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Background: Studies have reported high rates of heavy episodic drinking and alcohol-related problems, including drinking and driving, among college students. However, most studies have been conducted in single colleges or states. This study used a national sample to examine policy factors associated with alcohol-involved driving. Methods: A random sample of full-time students (N=10,904) attending a nationally representative sample of 4-year colleges in 39 states (n=119) completed self-administered questionnaires. The questionnaire examined driving after consuming any alcohol, driving after ≥5 drinks, and riding with a high or drunk driver. Individual-level data about driving after ≥5 drinks were linked to information on the policy environment at both local and state levels and to ratings of enforcements for drunk driving laws. Results: Drinking and driving behaviors are prevalent among a minority of college students and differ significantly among student subgroups. Students who attend colleges in states that have more restrictions on underaged drinking, high volume consumption, and sales of alcoholic beverages, and devote more resources to enforcing drunk driving laws, report less drinking and driving. Conclusion: The occurrence of drinking and driving among college students differs significantly according to the policy environment at local and state levels and the enforcement of those policies. Comprehensive policies and their strong enforcement are promising interventions to reduce drinking and driving among college students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)212-218
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican journal of preventive medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Anthony Roman and the University of Massachusetts–Boston Survey Research Center for collecting the data; Jeana Gledhill-Hoyt, Diana DerKoorkanian, and Meichun Kuo for producing the policy database used in this report; Jeff Hansen and Mark Seibring for preparation of the data; and Karen Powers for helping in the preparation of this report.


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