New Study on 'Drowsy Driving' Cites Research by St. Thomas Professors

A recently released report, “Wake Up Call! Understanding Drowsy Driving and What States Can Do,” cites research about the sleep habits of college students that was conducted by University of St. Thomas professors Roxanne Prichard and Monica Hartmann.

The report was funded by a grant from State Farm.

According to the report, more than a third of U.S. adults report sleeping less than the optimal amount, which means more than 80 million sleep-deprived people are in the workplace, at school and on the road. The report found that of the 328,000 “drowsy driving crashes” on U.S. roadways each year, 109,000 of them caused injuries and 6,400 resulted in fatalities.

Also according to the report, lack of sleep mimics blood-alcohol concentrations. Going 21 hours without sleep is equivalent to a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent, which is the legal limit in all states. Going 24 hours without sleep is comparable to a 0.10 level.

Prichard is an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience and scientific director of St. Thomas’ Center for College Sleep. Hartmann is a professor of economics.

The “Wake Up Call” report cited the professors’ 2014 study that found that the negative impact of poor sleep on student grade-point averages is equivalent to the impact of binge drinking and marijuana use. Their findings are discussed on Page 13 and Page 14 of the 73-page Governors Highway Safety Association report.

The “Wake Up Call” report summarized the professors’ findings: “The problem is acute on college campuses nationwide. More than two-thirds of college students report experiencing excessive drowsiness, more than a third fall asleep in class at least once a week and more than half [56.8 percent] get enough sleep to feel rested at most only three nights a week.”