Sex differences in the association between impulsivity and driving under the influence of alcohol in young adults: The specific role of sensation seeking

Accid Anal Prev. 2019 Mar;124:174-179. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2018.12.024. Epub 2019 Jan 17.


Introduction: There is an outstanding need to identify predictors of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) among young adults, particularly women. Impulsivity, or the tendency to act without thinking, is a predictor of DUI, but the specific facets of impulsivity that predict DUI and their interaction with sex differences remain unclear. We aimed to investigate sex differences in the link between impulsivity facets and DUI. Moreover, we sought to replicate previous findings regarding sex differences on impulsivity, and associations between impulsivity facets and DUI.

Method: A total of 506 university students participated in the study (males, n = 128; females, n = 378). Participants completed measures of impulsivity (UPPS-P short version), alcohol use (AUDIT-C), frequency of DUI episodes and related perception of risk. The UPPS-P assesses five facets of impulsivity: sensation seeking, (lack of) premeditation and perseverance and positive and negative urgency.

Results: Men showed higher sensation seeking and lack of perseverance, alcohol use and DUI frequency and lower risk perception than women. DUI frequency was negatively associated with perception of risk and positively associated with alcohol use and the five impulsivity facets. After controlling for alcohol use and risk perception, only lack of premeditation was associated with DUI frequency in the whole sample. Sensation seeking was positively associated with DUI frequency only in women.

Discussion: The link between lack of premeditation and DUI suggest that pre-drinking planning strategies can contribute to prevent risky driving. In women, specific links between sensation seeking and DUI suggest the need for personality-tailored prevention strategies.

Keywords: Alcohol; Driving under the influence; Impulsivity; Sex differences; UPPS-P.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Driving Under the Influence / prevention & control
  • Driving Under the Influence / psychology*
  • Driving Under the Influence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / physiology*
  • Male
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sex Factors*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult