Off-Campus Strategies (Ineffective if Used in Isolation)

Policies in this section are likely to be ineffective, based on the lack of evidence of effectiveness reported in the literature, unless they are implemented in conjunction with evidence-based policies.


Strategy: Mass Media Campaigns to Educate Potential Drinkers About the Risks of Drinking

Theory Behind the Strategy

General mass media campaigns to reduce excessive drinking are designed to be persuasive, most often encouraging people to avoid drinking by instilling feelings of fear for potential consequences.192

Evidence of Effectiveness

Several mass media campaigns have been implemented in communities with the intent to spread information about potential negative consequences related to excessive alcohol use. Informational campaigns are not likely to be effective in reducing drinking among college students because excessive drinkers are usually already aware of the associated short-term risks and are not concerned with the long-term outcomes.191

In their 2003 report Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility, the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine concluded that adult-oriented campaigns, which focus on discouraging adults from providing alcohol to youth, were more promising than youth-oriented campaigns, which focus on changing youth consumption, to reduce underage drinking. While they noted that there is limited evidence of effectiveness to support the notion that an adult-oriented campaign would do more than disseminate facts about underage drinking, they postulated that it could reduce youth drinking if it convinced adults to take specific actions to reduce underage drinking and change adult behaviors that facilitate underage drinking.355

Tips for Implementation

Mass media campaigns to spread the message about support for a new alcohol policy initiative or newly enacted policy might be a way to more effectively use this strategy.191 There is some evidence that media campaigns can help build support for more effective policies.356 In general, mass media campaigns should not be used in isolation due to lack of evidence of effectiveness.78 Instead, careful steps should be taken to execute the campaign so that it supports and occurs in conjunction with other more effective prevention and enforcement efforts.191

Strategy: Designated Driver Programs

Theory Behind the Strategy

Designated driver programs seek to replace drinking-drivers with designated non-drinking drivers, in order to reduce alcohol-impaired driving and related consequences.

Evidence of Effectiveness

General Population: These programs have not been sufficiently studied to draw definitive conclusions; however, the available evidence is mixed enough to suggest that they might not reduce alcohol-related crashes. Though these policies might decrease the number of impaired drivers, there is the potential for passengers to actually consume greater amounts of alcohol once the responsibility of driving has been removed.78

These programs have the potential to create a carload of designated drinkers—for instance, a study of 21- to 34-year-olds found that more than half consumed more than usual when using a designated driver. Further, drivers themselves still might consume alcohol. Almost one-fourth of designated drivers reported that they did not drink less than their usual amount.357 A recently published evaluation of data from the 2007 Roadside National Survey found that 30% of nighttime drivers reported being designated drivers, and that 20% of the passengers of designated drivers reported drinking more than five drinks that day.358

College Population: More than half of college students reported that passengers drink more on occasions when they use a designated driver,359 contributing to the frequency of excessive drinking occasions. However, a recent field investigation of college students’ transportation plans after leaving drinking establishments near a large southeastern U.S. university used breathalyzers instead of self-reports to assess how much students had been drinking.360 Although this study found that individuals with a designated driver did not have higher BACs than others, it also found the average BAC among drinkers was 0.0979 g/dL; among students planning to drive the average was 0.061 g/dL, with more than half over 0.05 g/dL and a quarter above 0.08 g/dL.

Tips for Implementation

Designated driver programs are popular among schools,361 despite the lack of evidence to suggest their effectiveness at reducing alcohol-related harms.78,362,363 College administrators should focus efforts to reduce excessive alcohol use and related harms on environmental and deterrent strategies that have more evidence of effectiveness.

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