Mass media campaigns against alcohol-impaired driving

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Some Evidence

Strategies with this rating are likely to work, but further research is needed to confirm effects. These strategies have been tested more than once and results trend positive overall.

Health Factors  
Date last updated

Mass media campaigns against alcohol-impaired driving aim to persuade individuals to avoid drinking and driving or to prevent others from doing so. Campaigns often focus on the negative consequences of alcohol-impaired driving, including legal consequences and injury to self, others, or property1. Mass media campaigns can be run via a variety of channels, including TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, billboards, banners, and social media. Campaigns can include public service announcements (PSAs); airtime can be paid or donated1, 2.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Reduced impaired driving

  • Reduced alcohol-related crashes

  • Reduced fatal and non-fatal injuries

What does the research say about effectiveness?

There is some evidence that mass media campaigns reduce alcohol-impaired driving and alcohol-related crashes with injuries and fatalities3, 4, 5. Additional evidence is needed to confirm the effects of campaign characteristics, such as timing, target audience, and the use of new types of media1.

Mass media campaigns without law enforcement components have been shown to reduce alcohol-related crashes resulting in injuries and fatalities among teenage3 and young male drivers, at least in the short term5. An evaluation of a mass media campaign with a workplace education component suggests such efforts can reduce alcohol-related nighttime injury crashes4. Public service announcement (PSA) campaigns about alcohol abuse and drunk driving are associated with modest reductions in alcohol-related fatal accidents; airing PSAs during prime time may have greater effects2.

Mass media campaigns are sometimes used to publicize law enforcement programs targeting drunk driving; such paired efforts can reduce alcohol-impaired driving and alcohol-related fatal crashes6, 7, 8, 9. However, the sobriety checkpoints employed in such law enforcement efforts can increase racial profiling, and experts recommend using standardized procedures to select vehicles and drivers to reduce the potential for discriminatory profiling and targeting9, 10.

Experts also recommend that mass media campaigns be paired with strategies like alcohol tax increases, elimination of price discounting such as happy hours, and changing outlet service and sales practices, hours and days of service, and density11. Such campaigns are most effective when their design and dissemination are based on rigorous research and behavior change theories11.

How could this strategy impact health disparities? This strategy is rated no impact on disparities likely.
Implementation Examples

Mass media campaigns are often implemented by state agencies or law enforcement, although coalitions which include health systems and universities can also lead efforts; the Smart Roads program in Pueblo, Colorado included cooperation with alcohol distributors, taxi operators, and liquor store owners and included paycheck inserts, table tents, and posters and banners, strategically placed in local businesses4. The Illinois Department of Transportation’s campaign uses public service announcements (PSAs)12 and has used social media surveys13.

Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over and Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving are examples of national multimedia campaigns against drunk driving; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also has campaigns designed to reduce drug-impaired driving, and Ride Sober or Get Pulled Over, designed for motorcyclists14. The NHTSA High Visibility Enforcement (HVE) Toolkit offers guidance on publicity and recommends including traffic safety partners and community groups, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Urban League, in planning15.

Implementation Resources

NHTSA-Drunk driving - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Drunk driving.

NHTSA-Drug-impaired driving - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Drug-impaired driving.

NHTSA-Ride sober - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Ride sober or get pulled over (motorcyclists).


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1 Yadav 2015 - Yadav RP, Kobayashi M. A systematic review: Effectiveness of mass media campaigns for reducing alcohol-impaired driving and alcohol-related crashes Health behavior, health promotion and society. BMC Public Health. 2015;15(1):1-17.

2 Niederdeppe 2017 - Niederdeppe J, Avery R, Miller EN. Alcohol-control public service announcements (PSAs) and drunk-driving fatal accidents in the United States, 1996–2010. Preventive Medicine. 2017;99:320-325.

3 Whittam 2006 - Whittam KP, Dwyer W, Simpson PW, Leeming FC. Effectiveness of a media campaign to reduce traffic crashes involving young drivers. Journal of Applied Social Psychology. 2006;36(3):614-628.

4 NHTSA-Jones 2005 - Jones R, Rodriguez-Iglesias C, Cyr E. Evaluation of Pueblo County, Colorado’s Smart Roads project. Washington, D.C.: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT); 2005.

5 Murry 1993 - Murry JP, Stam A, Lastovicka JL. Evaluating an anti-drinking and driving advertising campaign with a sample survey and time series intervention analysis. Journal of the American Statistical Association. 1993;88(421):50-56.

6 NHTSA-Lacey 2008 - Lacey JH, Kelley-Baker T, Brainard K, Tippetts S, Lyakhovich M. Evaluation of the Checkpoint Strikeforce program. Washington, D.C.: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT); 2008.

7 NHTSA-Zwicker 2007a - Zwicker TJ, Chaudhary NK, Solomon MG, Siegler JN, Meadows JD. West Virginia’s impaired driving high-visibility enforcement campaign, 2003-2005. Washington, D.C.: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT); 2007.

8 NHTSA-Zwicker 2007b - Zwicker TJ, Chaudhary NK, Maloney S, Squeglia R. Connecticut’s 2003 impaired-driving high-visibility enforcement campaign. Washington, D.C.: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT); 2007.

9 CG-Bergen 2014 - Bergen G, Pitan A, Qu S, et al. Publicized sobriety checkpoint programs: A Community Guide systematic review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2014;46(5):529-539.

10 Fell 2004 - Fell JC, Lacey JH, Voas RB. Sobriety checkpoints: Evidence of effectiveness is strong, but use is limited. Traffic Injury Prevention. 2004;5(3):220-227.

11 NASEM 2018b - National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). Getting to zero alcohol-impaired driving fatalities: A comprehensive approach to a persistent problem. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press; 2018.

12 IDOT-Drive Sober - Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). Drive Sober.

13 Rosenfeld 2017a - Rosenfeld J. Impact of safety campaigns on reducing drunk driving. The National Law Review. 2017.

14 NHTSA-Marketing - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Traffic Safety Marketing (TSM).

15 NHTSA-HVE - National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). High Visibility Enforcement (HVE) Toolkit.