Traffic Safety Facts - Research Note Masthead
NHTSA - People Saving People Logo
March 2004
DOT HS 809 708

Public Perceptions of the July 2003 You Drink & Drive. You Lose. Crackdown: Telephone Surveys Show the Media Campaign Reaches Target Audience

Marv Levy, Richard Compton, and Stephen Dienstfrey

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Office of Research & Technology is evaluating the July 2003 impaired driving You Drink and Drive. You Lose. crackdown (campaign). This Research Note reports the results of surveys conducted to measure public perceptions of the crackdown.

In 2002, more than 17,000 people lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes. Past research has shown that high visibility enforcement campaigns (combining highly visible enforcement with publicity about the enforcement campaign) can yield substantial reductions in alcohol-related crashes (Lacey et. al., 1986; Lacey et al., 1999; Wells et al., 1991).

Beginning on June 20th, continuing through the July 4th holiday period, and ending on July 13th 2003, NHTSA sponsored an impaired driving crackdown under the banner – You Drink and Drive. You Lose. A key feature of the crackdown was the use of paid advertising to support and promote drivers’ awareness of the enforcement campaign.

National and State telephone surveys were conducted before and after the crackdown to measure driver awareness, perceptions of enforcement activity, and self-reported drinking and driving behavior change. This Research Note analyzes public perceptions of the crackdown to measure the effectiveness of the media component (both earned and paid media). The crackdown involved unprecedented use of paid advertising, totaling some $25M nationwide. Additional information about the level of enforcement activity and the effect of the crackdown on alcohol-related crashes will be reported later.

Earned Media
Many of the States participating in the national crack-down made extensive use of earned media by conducting press conferences, issuing press releases, inviting reporters to sobriety checkpoints, providing weekly information on the results of the enforcement activity, using brochures and posters, and other means to garner news coverage of the crackdown, etc. Market research showed that 309 stories about the crackdown aired on TV (on 140 stations) and that there was fairly extensive radio coverage (with some 9,000 mentions of the crackdown nationwide).

Paid Advertising
For 2003, Congress appropriated eleven million dollars to conduct a paid advertising campaign targeting drinking and driving. NHTSA spent $500,000 producing an advertisement about the enforcement crack-down on impaired driving, and $5.5 million to purchase air time on national TV. An additional $5 million was spent purchasing air time in thirteen Strategic Evaluation States (SES), chosen primarily because of their high alcohol-related fatality numbers or crash rates. Fifteen other States spent approximately $13 million of State funds or federally appropriated funds for paid media to advertise the impaired driving crackdown, with the preponderance of funding spent in 9 of the States.

National and State Media Message
Due to their heavy involvement in alcohol-related crashes, the focus of the paid advertisement was directed at young males, especially those 18-34 years old. The TV ad, both in Spanish and English, showed males in their 20s and 30s being stopped by law enforcement officers, asked if they had been drinking, and then asked to step out of their car. The drivers are shown taking field sobriety tests, being handcuffed, placed in the back seat of a squad car, and having their mug shot taken. Superimposed at the end of the clip is the logo – You Drink and Drive. You Lose.

The paid TV ad was shown nationally, and in addition, in the 13 SES States with the trailer modified to identify the individual States. To maximize potential effectiveness, air time was purchased on TV programs often viewed by males between the ages of 18 and 34 (NASCAR, sporting events, reality shows, late night TV, etc.). The ad ran from June 20th to July 13th, primarily Wednesdays through Saturdays.

National, 13 SES State, and 4 Comparison State Surveys
Representative surveys were conducted nationally, in the 13 SES States, and in four comparison States both prior to and just after the impaired driving crackdown. The SES States were: Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia. The Comparison States were: Missouri, New York, North Carolina and Wisconsin. None of the Comparison States supplemented the national buy with State-funded paid ads.

For each pre or post crackdown wave, the National Sample targeted 1250 respondents who met two criteria: 1) they reported driving, and 2) they drank alcohol at least once during the past year. They did not need to be regular drinkers or have driven after drinking. Similar criteria were used for screening 500 respondents in each of the 13 SES States and the 4 Comparison States.

In each of these States, the surveys were conducted in specific counties or parishes (Louisiana) where the enforcement efforts were planned for implementation. For both the national and State surveys, all questionnaire items were identical and conducted randomly using a computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) system. A total of 9,750 respondents were surveyed before and after the crackdown.

Marv Levy is a Research Psychologist in the Office of Research & Technology, Richard Compton is the Director of the Office of Research & Technology, and Stephen Dienstfrey is with Schulman, Ronca and Bucuvalas, Inc.