Mass media campaigns to reduce drink driving

Impact on crime
Evidence quality 1
Effect
How it works
cog full Evidence quality 2
Mechanism
Where it works
where full Evidence quality 0
Moderator
How to do it
what full Evidence quality 2
Implementation
What it costs
cost full Evidence quality 1
Economic cost

What is the focus of the intervention?

​​Mass media campaigns focus on persuading individuals to avoid drink driving or prevent others from doing so. These campaigns promote themes such as fear of arrest and legal consequences of arrest, fear of harm to self, others or property, encouraging positive social norms, and stigmatising drinkers as being irresponsible. Messages relayed in media campaigns range from abstinence to moderation, or recommend specific responsible behaviours to prevent others from driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol.

This narrative su​mmary is based on one systematic review (covering 8 studies).

EFFECT

How effective is it?

​There is some evidence that the intervention has reduced crime, but overall the intervention has not had a statistically significant effect on crime.

Specifically, the evidence suggests that mass media campaigns have no overall impact on either alcohol related crashes or the proportion of drivers driving under the influence of alcohol although some individual studies suggest a decrease.

There was no evidence of a backfire effect or negative consequences in any of the studies reviewed.   

How strong is the evidence?

​​The review is based on 8 studies carried out in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. Although the review was systematic, many forms of bias tha​t could influence the study conclusions remain.

The review did not quantify an overall effec​​t for unanticipated outcomes such as displacement caused by the intervention. 

MECHANISM

How does it work?

​​​​The review notes that mass media campaigns increase awareness of legal as well as social and health consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol. This increased awareness leads to changes in attitudes and knowledge as well as social norms and peer influences, and to positive changes in driving behaviour.

The review authors ​note that fear based campaigns are controversial; while some level of anxiety arousal is seen as desirable, intense anxiety can cause some people to ignore or discount the campaign messages. The desired change in attitude and behaviour can be encouraged when the anxiety-arousing message is accompanied by specific information about how people can protect themselves. 

MODERATORS

In which contexts does it work best?

​There was no discussion in the review about the specific contexts in which mass media campaigns work. Review authors note that mass media campaigns are likely to be more effective when they are reinforced by other efforts such as law enforcement activity, grassroots activities, and other media messages relating to drinking and driving. ​​

IMPLEMENTATION

What can be said about implementing this initiative?

​​​Review authors note that:

  • The desig​n of the message should be based firmly on theory and empirical evidence instead of so-called experts with limited knowledge of the research literature. They also recommend message pre-testing to increase effectiveness. ​

  • ​​Highly threatenin​g messages tend to divide the audience. Policy makers should, therefore, place more emphasis on suggestin​g suitable coping strategies to address the underlying threat portrayed instead of relying simply on the emotive appeal. 

  • Paid advertising campaigns are recommended over public service announcements in order to maintain control over placement and m​aximise exposure.

  • Mass media camp​​aigns work best when they produce an optimal amount of anxiety; are of a high quality with strategic placement to ensure the target audience sees, comprehends and attends to the message; and have adequate resources and public support.

ECONOMIC CONSIDERATIONS

How much might it cost?

Economic analysis of campaign effects (3 studies) indicated that the societal benefits were greater than the costs. Individual studies estimate the costs and benefits of mass media campaigns to range between:

  • $403,174 (AUD) per month (for first 23 months) for the campaign in Victoria (Australia) totalling $23 million between 1989 and 1992. Estimated savings from medical costs, productivity losses, pain and suffering, and property damage were $8,324,532 per month. 
  • $454,060 and $322,660 for (full 6 month campaigns) for the Wichita and Kansas campaigns respectively in the USA.  Estimated savings from averted costs of insurance administration, premature funerals, court and legal expenses, medical payments, property damage, rehabilitation and employers losses were estimated to be $3,341,305 and $3,676,399 respectively.
  • $7million (NZD) per year for the campaign in New Zealand. Estimated savings were not calculated.

General considerations

  • ​​The review authors admit that the studies reviewed represent a highly select sample of high-quality, high-intensity campaigns and, as​​ such, may not reflect general intervention effectiveness.

  • Some authors sug​​gest that the​ association between mass media campaigns and observed decreases in alcohol related crashes may be more due to legislative changes rather than the direct effects of the campaigns on people's behaviour.

  • It is unlikely th​​​at all potential messages are equally effective at changing drinking and driving behaviour; some might not be effective a​nd others could be counterproductive. Thus, effective pretesting of messages is an important consideration​ for implementation of mass media campaigns. 

Summary

Overall, the evidence suggests that mass media campaigns have no impact on either alcohol related crashes or the proportion of drivers driving under the influence of alcohol although some studies suggest a decrease.
The evidence suggests that well planned and well executed mass media campaigns that attain adequate audience exposure, and are implemented with other prevention activities such as enhanced law enforcement, may contribute to a reduction in alcohol impaired driving and alcohol related crashes.
It also suggests that such campaigns are cost effective and the resulting social benefits outweigh costs.

Ratings for Individual Reviews

Review 1

How it works
cog full Evidence quality 2
Mechanism
Where it works
where full Evidence quality 0
Moderator
How to do it
what full Evidence quality 2
Implementation
What it costs
cost full Evidence quality 1
Economic cost

Resources

Review: Elder R., Shults R., Sleet D., Nicols J., Thompson R. and Rajab W.,: (2004) Effectiveness of Mass Media Campaigns for Reducing Drinking and Driving and Alcohol-Involved Crashes: A Systematic Review, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 27:1; 57-65 ​

 

This narrative was prepared by UCL Jill Dando Institute and was co-funded by the College of Policing and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).  ESRC Grant title: 'University Consortium for Evidence-Based Crime Reduction'. Grant Ref: ES/L007223/1.

Uploaded 19/02/15

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