For decades, state agencies and local communities have initiated mass media safety campaigns to promote public health and reduce drunk driving and alcohol-related accidents.
Keeping the public aware is essential because, according to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), on average, 28 individuals in America lose their lives each day to alcohol-related crashes at the rate of one every 51 minutes.
With more than 13,000 lives lost annually in the U.S., eliminating dangerous behavior behind the wheel can make traveling safer for everyone sharing the road.
National Safety Campaign
In 1983, the NHTSA launched its “Friends Don’t Lead Friends Drive Drunk” safety campaign to prevent alcohol-impaired friends and family members from driving after drinking.
Fifteen years later, in 1998, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported that the nation had its lowest number of roadway accident fatalities involving alcohol since the government agency gathered statistics.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has continually sponsored this highly successful safety campaign along with others, including their “Drinking and Driving Can Kill a Friendship” public safety announcement.
Surveys show that seven out of every ten Americans, at some point since the safety campaign was initially launched, have attempted to stop another person from driving after drinking.
The agency’s newest campaign, “Probably Okay Isn’t Okay,” asks viewers to assess how they look for obvious and not-so-obvious indicators of impairment in themselves and others when deciding to get behind the wheel.
These campaigns have been highly successful at impacting the choices we make after drinking. Research has shown that more people than ever are catching a ride, calling a taxi, or using public transportation to avoid driving after drinking.
Illinois Drunk Driving Safety Campaigns
In recent years, the state of Illinois developed, implemented, and promoted its own public safety announcements and campaigns involving drunk driving, including its “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” safety campaign.
In addition to providing the public with much-needed information, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) started an educational campaign informing drivers of the legal and safety consequences of drinking and driving.
The drunk driving safety campaign project was initiated to “save lives and prevent injuries” and prevent the need for law enforcement to keep the road safe.
During this time, the Illinois state legislature also enacted alcohol-related laws, including the 0.08 law and the graduated licensing law that called on law enforcement officers to ticket drivers who were not obeying the law.
The safety campaign included conducting roadside safety checks to catch drunk drivers and saturation plans involving state and local police departments to be in full force during these five weeks leading up to Labor Day.
The safety campaign initiated before Labor Day began on August 1, 2015, and ran through September 7, 2015. Over 150 local law enforcement agencies across Illinois participated in the five-week event.
Multiple IDOT-sponsored media events were held in six cities, including Chicago, DuQuion, East Moline, Peoria, Rockford, and Springfield, just before the successful Labor Day safety campaign was launched.
The safety campaign included more than 70 print stories, eight television news stories, 15 radio stories, and 53 public announcements. The promotional campaign involved displaying banners, distributing flyers and posters, and numerous presentations.
The public was made aware through Internet announcements, public access messages, and nearly 300 issued press releases.
Law Enforcement Events
To enforce the drunk driving laws of the State of Illinois, law enforcement conducted more than 70 roadside safety checks and ensured that law enforcement was in full force in the days leading up to Labor Day.
Officers wrote an average of one citation every 38.5 hours during this time frame and issued 368 driving-under-the-influence and alcohol-related citations.
More than 6000 other citations were issued during the safety campaign involving child passenger safety seat and safety belt laws violations.
The Illinois Department of Transportation conducted a telephone survey to understand the perceptions of the public involving alcohol-related drunk driving law enforcement.
Approximately one out of every three respondents providing answers in a telephonic study in September 2015 stated that they had “seen or heard [some] thing about the police setting up roadway safety checks where they stopped and checked drivers and vehicles.”
Between April and September 2015, telephone survey results revealed that the public (statewide 60.4 percent) had become more aware of the state’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” slogan.
However, that number rose significantly in the Chicago metropolitan area from “56.4 percent in April to 71.0 percent in September.”
The Necessity of the Safety Campaign Preparing the Public to Remain Aware
The IDOT safety campaign was based on well-documented census literature (2011 Fatality Analysis Reporting System) gathered by the NHTSA that links drunk driving to fatalities.
The census data reported that “the severity of a motor vehicle crash increases when the driver is impaired. Individuals who drive while impaired are more likely to drive recklessly and become involved in fatal crashes.
Plus, impaired drivers are less likely to use safety belts, increasing their risk for severe injuries in a crash.”
To prevent fatal crashes, the state’s Department of Transportation began issuing press releases in the last week of August 2015 that ran through September 3, 2015.
These releases were issued to inform the public that their local law enforcement agency would be in full force to catch drunk drivers on the road during the Labor Day holiday weekend.
The program also involved paid media, where the state paid more than $700,000 to run advertisements on cable channels, mobile platforms, and broadcast television.
The Survey Results Drinking and Driving Behaviors
To better understand how much the public became more aware of the problems associated with drunk driving, the telephonic survey conducted by the Illinois DOT focused on “behaviors related to drinking and driving” to determine the respondents’ frequency of drinking, drinking, and driving, how often they drove after drinking, and the number of drinks they consumed on their last occasion.
Some questions asked during the telephone survey included:
- How often did the respondent drink alcohol in the past month? – Throughout all of Illinois, nearly half (45.9 percent) stated that they had consumed at least one alcoholic beverage in September, which could include liquor, wine, or beer in the last 30 days. This number was slightly lower than the telephone survey taken in June, which showed that 46.4 percent of respondents admitted to drinking a beverage within the last 30 days.
- Has the respondent ever operated a motor vehicle within two hours after consuming alcohol [within the last 30 days]? – Nearly 22 percent or more than one in five responded that they had operated a motor vehicle within two hours after alcohol. Out of all the respondents, 2.5 percent said they did not know if they had ever driven a car within two hours after drinking alcoholic beverages.
- Within the last month, how often has the respondent operated a motor vehicle within two hours of consuming alcohol? – Of the number of respondents (22 percent) who admitted to driving within two hours after drinking alcohol, six out of ten (49 percent of those) admitted to driving within two hours after drinking in the last 30 days.
- How many alcoholic beverages did the respondent consume on the last occasion? – Most respondents (43.7 percent) stated they had had “one” drink. That was followed by the next largest group of respondents (38.3 percent) stating they had two drinks. Only 4.4 percent of the telephone respondents claimed to have consumed five or more alcoholic beverages the last time they drove a vehicle after drinking.
The telephonic survey asked the respondents how frequently they operated a motor vehicle after consuming too much alcohol. The question hoped to uncover how often the average driver participating in the survey thought they were too drunk to drive.
Approximately 4 percent of the respondents thought at some point in their life, they had thought they had too much to drink and still drove.
Roadside Safety Checks
Respondents and the telephonic survey were asked about their experience and awareness of roadside safety checks when law enforcement officers stopped traffic to see if drivers’ capabilities were impaired.
- Roadside Safety Checked Awareness – Approximately 29 percent of the telephonic survey respondents stated that over the last month, they saw or heard something “about the police setting up roadside safety checks where they stopped to check drivers and vehicles.”
- How They Became Aware – The group that responded that they knew the roadside safety checks were being conducted locally was then asked how they saw or heard the information. Approximately 34 percent of the respondents indicated they were made aware by relatives or friends. Another 32 percent said they heard about the roadside safety checks on the radio and television, while another 17.3 percent reported: “seeing or hearing about the checks be the newspaper.” Less than one out of every five (18.6 percent) respondents said that they became aware of another source.
Stopped at a Roadside Check
The state survey hoped to determine the number of responders in the telephonic survey who had “personally seen a roadside check” to understand how many had “personally been through a roadside check in the past 30 days” either as a passenger in the vehicle or as the driver.
Of all the September responders involved in the survey, 54.1 percent “reported having been through a check.”
Out of the total number of individuals who had personally gone through a roadside check in the previous month, 54.4 percent of those had gone to the check-in in the Chicago area.
Safety Campaign Slogan Awareness
Finally, the surveyors asked the respondents if they knew of certain safety campaign slogans involving drunk driving. The results included the following:
- You Drink and Drive. You Lose Safety Campaign (70.6 percent),
- Click It or Ticket Safety Campaign (92 percent)
- Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Safety Campaign (60.4 percent)
- Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk Safety Campaign (77.8 percent)
- Buckle up America Safety Campaign (47 percent)
- Police in Illinois Arrest Drunk Drivers Safety Campaign (46.4 percent)
- Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest Safety Campaign (25.1 percent)
Creating Awareness through Social Media
The Illinois Department of Transportation asked respondents taking their survey about social media to reach young drivers concerning the issues of alcohol-impaired driving, texting while driving, and using seatbelts.
More than four out of five (80.8 percent) stated that they visited Facebook, and more than half (52.5 percent) had visited YouTube within the last seven days. This was followed by Snapchat (16.5 percent), Pinterest (20.9 percent), and Instagram (23.4 percent).
The respondents were asked to give an opinion on the best solution for reaching young drivers. More than half (50.5 percent) who responded suggested social media would work best at accomplishing the goal.
Another 19.6 percent thought traditional safety campaigns by advertising, television, newspaper, signage, and billboards effectively targeted young people.
Other respondents thought an educational safety campaign would be the most effective solution for reaching young adults and teenagers in high school and college. Only a tiny percentage (5.6 percent) thought measures taken by law enforcement could help.
Other Deterrent Strategies
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers various deterrent strategies and safety campaigns to reduce or prevent drunk driving.
The suggestions the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommended have also proven highly effective.
Both federal agencies recognize that state and local authorities utilize various resources to implement the following recommendations to ensure success.
- Improved Drunk Driving Laws – Laws concerning drunk driving make it illegal for anyone to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content level at or above 0.08 percent. However, the CDC recommends that individuals under 21 follow “zero-tolerance” laws that make it illegal for underage drivers to operate a motor vehicle with “any measurable amount” of alcohol in their bloodstream.
- Ignition Interlocks – Installing ignition interlocks in motor vehicles can be an effective solution for starting the engine if the driver is legally drunk with a measurable blood alcohol content above a specified level, like 0.02 percent. This equipment measures the driver’s alcohol content through their breath. Some individuals who have been repeatedly convicted of DUI can continue driving but only by using an ignition interlock. The CDC recommends mandating this equipment for all drunk driving offenders. This would include those that have been convicted of drunk driving only once.
- License Suspension and Revocation Laws – The CDC recommends enhancing license suspension and revocation laws through an administrative process. These changes in the law will help the police force to take away the driver’s license if a blood alcohol test registers the legal BAC limit or higher. Revoking or suspending a license would be automatic for anyone who refuses to take a breath or blood test. However, every state could individually choose when to suspend the license, although license suspensions lasting 90 days or longer seem the most effective.
- Educational Instruction Programs – Instructional programs conducted in schools are highly effective at teaching teenagers never to ride with any driver who is intoxicated. However, the CDC states that not enough studies have been done to show that these programs effectively reduce drunk driving and alcohol-related accidents.
- Alcohol Screening – The CDC suggests that “teachable moments” involving brief interventions and alcohol screening are effective solutions for identifying individuals who are a high risk for developing alcohol problems. These methods can ensure that individuals in need receive treatment when necessary. Interventions and screenings are best delivered in a healthcare setting to assist the individual in changing their behavior of driving while impaired.
The most effective solution to stop driving while intoxicated is to prevent the problem from occurring at all.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving ((MADD) has released a safety campaign with tips on promoting safe driving, especially for those who fall into the highest demographic of drunk drivers, between 21 and 44 years of age. These tips include:
- Designated Driver – Before going anywhere, including the neighbor’s house, to spend time with friends, family, or others, choose a designated driver who has committed to not drinking at that time when others are consuming alcohol. Having a designated sober driver can ensure that everyone in the car gets home safely.
- Drink Responsibly – Being a responsible drinker who consumes moderate amounts of alcohol usually doesn’t have to worry about impaired judgment or distorting their vision and hearing.
- Ask for a Ride – If you are coherent enough but recognize you are too drunk to drive, ask for a ride. If those in your party are unwilling to help you find another way to get home, take the initiative and ask others, call the taxi or Uber vehicle, or don’t leave until someone else gives you a ride.
- Protect People Who Are Intoxicated – The safety campaign on drunk driving awareness suggests that “Friends Don’t Let Other Friends Drive Drunk.” The safety campaign recommends taking away the keys of an intoxicated friend, family member, guest, or patron if they want to operate their vehicle after consuming alcohol. While the intoxicated person might get mad, the alternatives of dying, being injured, or causing the death of others are significantly worse. Consider organizing carpools to prevent those known to drink excessively any way to drive themselves after the party or event.
- Be a Responsible Host – Whenever throwing a party, serve abundant food, never allow minors to drink alcohol, and arrange alternate transportation, including designated drivers, taxicabs, and Uber rides, to ensure your guests will get home safely. Ensure there is an abundance of non-alcoholic beverages, including coffee, soda, juice, and water, to provide alternative options for individuals who do not want to consume alcohol or have had enough.
- Look Out for Drunk Drivers – Certain indicators can identify an individual driving drunk on the roadway. Avoiding dangerous and erratic behavior can help prevent a drunk driving accident. The most common indicators of a drunk driver include those who are:
- Continually making wide turns
- Driving extremely slow
- Drifting, swerving, or weaving in and out of traffic
- Driving down the center lane of the road
- Coming to a complete stop without any cause
- Driving on the wrong side of the street
- Continuously or erratically braking
- Nearly missing other vehicles and objects
- Making illegal or abrupt turns
- Making slow responses to changing traffic signals
- Failing to use headlights when driving the dark
- Enhance your Parenting Skills – Family and friends should never condone underage drinking; most never serve alcoholic beverages to minors. In addition, develop an effective curfew plan for your child and let them know you will be waiting when they arrive home after a night out. Tell your young driver you expect to be called to pick them up if they do not have a ride home. Recognize that your child will mimic your actions, good or bad – so never drink and drive.
All humans are social creatures, making it particularly difficult in a social setting when everyone drinks heavily.
Studies have shown that individuals who agree to be designated drivers for the group usually agree to do that reluctantly.
However, for everyone’s health and well-being, it is essential to remember that drinking and driving is a serious crime, mainly if unacceptable behavior results in an accident with injuries or fatality.
Federal and state safety campaigns involving drunk driving remind us that if caught driving while impaired, we will be asked to take a field sobriety test or chemical test to determine our level of intoxication.
Our drunk driving lawyers recognize that by enforcing stricter DUI laws, government agencies hope to deter the motoring public from getting behind the wheel if they have consumed too much alcohol or taken illicit drugs.