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Community Coalitions Can Improve Traffic Safety

July 2018

Major studies have shown that coordinated community efforts can result in decreases in alcohol related problems – especially drinking and driving crashes. The combination of increased enforcement and increased public awareness of the enforcement can be effective in deterring drinking drivers. A recent study by the Prevention Research Center of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation and community leaders from Lancaster County, South Carolina, showed that a community coalition using these strategies were associated with a significant reduction in alcohol related traffic crashes.

The Lancaster County Coalition for Healthy Youth, which includes many local agencies and organizations, leads substance abuse prevention efforts in the county. The Coalition collaborated with local law enforcement (city police and county Sheriff’s office) to increase monthly Public Safety Checkpoints and to increase local news about drinking and driving enforcement. One priority for the Coalition was to collaborate with local enforcement agencies and to acquire funds, when necessary, to support increased drinking and driving enforcement. The Coalition also promoted increased local public awareness of enforcement through regular use of mass media, with special attention to newspapers.

Prior to the program, DUI crashes showed an upward trend (from July 2010-December 2011), which matched the upward trend in DUI crashes statewide. After the local intervention began in January 2012, local DUI crashes began a clear downward trend: average 2013 crashes were 23% lower than in 2012. This contrasted with the continued upward trend of DUI crashes in the state as a whole - with a two-year increase of 16%. The downward trend in local crashes was associated with an increase in DUI enforcement as well as news stories concerning DUI enforcement that were stimulated by the efforts of the community prevention project.

Drinking and driving and alcohol problems in general can be complicated and stubborn.  This study showed that by using appropriate evidence-based strategies, communities can bring about significant life-saving changes.

Source: Replication of a Controlled Community Prevention Trial: Results from a Local Implementation of Science- Based Intervention to Reduce Impaired Driving, by Michael D. George, Harold D. Holder, Paul N. McKenzie, Heather R. Mueller, Donna C. Herchek, Barry S. Faile, J Primary Prevent (2018) 39:47–58

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PIRE is an independent, nonprofit organization merging scientific knowledge and proven practice to create solutions that improve the health, safety and well-being of individuals, communities, and nations around the world.

The Prevention Research Center (PRC) of PIRE is one of 16 centers sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), of the National Institutes of Health, and is the only one that specializes in prevention. PRC's focus is on conducting research to better understand the social and physical environments that influence individual behavior that lead to alcohol and drug misuse.

The Resource Link for Community Action provides information and practical guidance to state and community agencies and organizations, policy makers, and members of the public who are interested in combating alcohol and other drug abuse and misuse.

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