PRC Projects

Center Grant

M.J. Paschall and Robert Saltz

Research indicates that alcohol control policies, such as raising the minimum legal drinking age to 21 and lowering the legal blood alcohol limit for driving have helped to reduce drinking and driving as well as other alcohol related problems among youth and young adults. However, hazardous drinking and related problems such as drinking and driving are still prevalent among young people. A number of promising environmental strategies have been identified to address these problems. These include party dispersal operations, responsible beverage service training, underage decoy operations at retail establishments, and penalties for underage possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages and drinking and driving. But how do those policies actually bring about less drinking and fewer alcohol problems? What effect does local law enforcement have on drinking among youth and young adults?

This five-year study will advance our understanding of local enforcement strategies and their effectiveness in reducing hazardous drinking and alcohol-related problems such as drinking and driving by young people. It will involve 24 California cities that were selected from a larger sample of 50 cities for the Statewide Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant. Half of the cities were randomly assigned to implement environmental interventions such as party patrol operations, underage decoy operations, and DUI sobriety checkpoints. Archival data will be used to examine intervention effects on alcohol problems among young adults and teens in the 24 cities from 2012 to 2016, such as alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes, violent assaults, injuries, and underage drinking estimates. Pre- and post-intervention interviews also will be conducted with 2,400 18- to- 30-year-olds to find out more about the processes through which local policies and enforcement activities have affected their drinking and related behaviors such as drinking and driving. The survey respondents will be asked questions about perceived enforcement of alcohol policies, perceived ease of obtaining alcohol, use of social and commercial alcohol sources, and drinking locations.

The results of the study will help to:

  1. Determine whether there is a significant reduction in community alcohol problems (alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes, violent assaults, injuries, underage drinking) in the intervention cities compared to the control cities;
  2. Investigate the intervening mechanisms through which local enforcement strategies may affect alcohol use and related problems among young people.

This study will advance our understanding of how effective local environmental prevention strategies are in reducing hazardous drinking and alcohol-related problems among young people and how to improve local enforcement of alcohol laws.