Graphic: Logo for Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America Graphic: NHTSA People Saving People logo

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In an Atlanta, Georgia high school auditorium, a teenage boy emotionally tells his captive audience how one year earlier, after drinking with his friends, he smashed his parent’s SUV into a car and killed a couple on their honeymoon.
In rural Virginia, a 32-year-old alcohol-impaired driver plowed into a mini-van containing two young children, their parents, and grandparents. While all parties survived, one of the children remains in a coma and both grandparents sustained serious injuries. Police officers at the scene reported that the driver had drunk so much alcohol prior to the crash that he did not remember getting into his car, nor did he show remorse for his actions. The suspect’s license was revoked at the scene; he was later convicted of impaired driving, and received a mandatory sentence of attending drug treatment and performing community service.
On a billboard near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the face of a young girl — a victim of an alcohol-related crash — is a stark warning not to drink and drive.


Each year, 42,000 people die in motor vehicle crashes
and more than 16,000 of these fatalities are alcohol or
drug-related. Behind these statistics are real people
with real stories. They’re not numbers, but human beings
with families and friends.

What’s so remarkable is that fatalities and injuries involving impaired driving, also known as drunk and drugged driving,* are totally preventable. Since 1990, alcohol-related fatalities have been reduced by 25%, from 22,084 in 1990 to 16,653 in 2000.(1) This reduction is due largely to concerted efforts by both the public and private sectors, and can be attributed to factors, such as the passage of stronger state and Federal laws; tougher enforcement of these laws; the integration of technological tools to identify and convict impaired drivers; and the creation and implementation of education/promotional campaigns. All of these efforts have contributed to a change in public attitudes and beliefs about the dangers of drinking and drugged driving.

* While the definition of impaired driving includes “drug-induced” impairment, most of the information found in this toolkit focuses on impairment caused by alcohol.

While enormous strides have been made, the number of alcohol/drug-related vehicle fatalities has leveled off over the last five years. It has become a National priority through the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Ad Council’s Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk campaign and NHTSA’s You Drink & Drive. You Lose. National Mobilization to reduce the number of vehicle fatalities attributed to alcohol and drugs on the Nation’s highways.

“Drunk and drugged driving is one of the most serious public health problems we face today because it is experienced in every community across the nation. While it threatens our stability in human and economic terms, the personal effects of impaired driving are the most devastating.”

John Moulden
President, National Commission Against Drunk Driving

This is where CADCA comes in. We are pleased to announce the creation of a partnership with NHTSA to create a community-based initiative that reduces and prevents alcohol and drug-impaired driving. The vision of this project is to:

“The only defense we have to combat [drunken driving] is vigilant enforcement and education.”

Dr. Jeffery W. Runge
Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

CADCA’s Impaired Driving Prevention Toolkit is a product of this NHTSA partnership. It is a “Prevention Primer 101,” providing basic facts; ways to evaluate the problem and/or successful initiatives in your communities; concrete steps to help integrate this issue into your current activities; and resources you can turn to for additional guidance. Here’s what you’ll learn about:

A word of caution — this toolkit is not meant to be an “end all” guide — it is intended to give you a solid foundation, and direct you to sources that will help you develop programs and activities that meet your community’s specific priorities.

Photo of classroom from the Washington Regional Alcohol Program
Courtesy of Washington Regional Alcohol Program

The Sobering Facts

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The following questions and answers address critical concerns about impaired driving. Feel free to integrate the information into speeches, presentations, and press materials.

Who is most likely to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs?
Individuals between 21 and 34 years of age; repeat offenders or chronic impaired drivers — individuals who drive repeatedly after drinking and often do so with high amounts of alcohol in their blood; and underage drinkers between the ages of 15 and 20.

When are impaired driving crashes most likely to occur?
In the evening hours, on weekends, and during specific holidays-such as Christmas-New Year’s, Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, prom/graduation celebrations, spring breaks, etc.

Is impaired driving a serious problem nationwide?
Yes. In 2000, there were 16,653 alcohol-related fatalities — 40 percent of the total traffic fatalities for the year. These figures represent an average of one alcohol-related crash every 32 minutes. Approximately 1.5 million drivers were arrested in 1999 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics — an arrest rate of one for every 121 licensed drivers in the United States (2000 data not yet available). (3)

What is the cost of alcohol-related crashes?
Recent NHTSA statistics indicate that alcohol-related crashes cost society $40 billion. This conservative estimate does not include pain, suffering, or lost quality of life. (4)

Is it risky to be on the road with impaired drivers?
Yes. About three in every 10 Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some point in their lives. (3) No one is safe when it comes to impaired driving — an alarming 68% of children killed in alcohol-related crashes ride in a car with a drinking driver. (5)

Why do we say, “crash” versus “accident?”

Impaired driving is no “accident,” it is preventable — a violent crime that kills.

What laws reduce the occurrence of impaired driving crashes?
The following laws have created the greatest impact in preventing and deterring impaired driving. Check with your State Highway Safety Representative to learn about laws in your state.

The model, as recommended by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and NHTSA, calls for a minimum of six months in the learner’s and intermediate stages. All three stages contain zero tolerance and seat belt requirements.

Photo of a traffic stop
Courtesy of PAS Systems International

Does My Community Have An
Impaired Driving Problem?

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How extensive is the impaired driving problem in your community? You may know the major facts about your community. For example, “during last year’s prom event, three young people were arrested for impaired driving and during the St. Patrick’s Day Celebration, seven 21-30 year-olds were arrested with high BACs. There were also two alcohol-related traffic fatalities last year.” Are these isolated incidents or is there a pattern? One of the best ways to answer this question is to conduct a community needs assessment. It will help your coalition:

The needs assessment should evaluate enforcement, prevention, education, public policy development, and media activities. As such, you should reach out to law enforcement agencies and representatives from the judicial system, politicians, families, educators, students, owners of bars and establishments that sell alcoholic beverages, other community organizations, and media outlets. Your coalition may want to consider a two-step needs assessment.

Evaluations can be performed through door-to-door surveys, phone and mail polling, newspaper questionnaires, focus groups, etc. Because this toolkit provides you with the basics, you are urged to take a look at other resources that focus solely on performing needs assessments. One such document is NHTSA’s Community How To Guide on Underage Drinking Prevention (Needs Assessment & Strategic Planning). See the Want to Learn More? section of this toolkit for downloading information.

Photo of a coalition representative meeting with a law enforcement officer

Here are some suggested questions to get you started:

How Can My Coalition Help
Stop Impaired Driving?



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Now that we know the facts, as well as how to determine the level of impaired driving in our communities, we’re ready to focus on strategies with proven track records. Specifically addressed are five programmatic building blocks that form the foundation of successful impaired driving prevention and deterrence activities. An overall strategy is presented first, followed by a brief explanation of the strategy. Program activities targeting those “Under-21”and the “General Public” conclude each building block. Don’t be surprised if the language and approaches are familiar to you! What’s required is an expansion of your organizational knowledge and skills into a new arena.


Strategy: To build a consortium of public/private organizations and institutions to create and sustain broad-based, impaired driving prevention and deterrence activities and programs.

Explanation: As experts in coalition building, you know about the importance of bringing the right players to the table in order to ensure programmatic success. Through your community needs assessment, you may find that impaired driving prevention activities are ongoing, and that your coalition will become part of them. If not, perhaps your coalition will take the lead in establishing such an initiative. The following agencies need to be on-board in order for such activities to get off the ground. Be sure your coalition is representative of the cultural make-up of your community. Because we’re talking about the development of comprehensive strategies, organizations working with those under-21 are listed with all of the other agencies. While you will probably recognize them by their names, they are marked with an “*.”

“Coalitions need to support treatment options for impaired drivers because these people are not strangers — they are our neighbors, family members, and friends. They will continue to drink and drive unless something is done.”

Michael Gimbel
Director, Baltimore County Bureau of Substance Abuse, Baltimore, MD

You know what to do once your “partner membership list” is established — ensure that an impaired driving prevention point-person is on-board; develop long- and short-term programmatic goals and objectives; and begin creating and implementing your strategies.

Don’t know whom to contact in your community? Some of the names and addresses of national organizations and Federal agencies listed above are found in the For Further Information section of this toolkit.

Prevention and Public Education

Strategy: Develop and implement a comprehensive public education campaign to make people more aware of the effects of alcohol and drugs on driving. Specific objectives may include to:

“Jail time alone will not solve a community’s drunk driving problem. Coalitions should support court efforts to combine strict supervision and treatment for convicted drunk drivers.”

Judge Jeanne Hamilton
Hancock Superior Court, Greenfield, Indiana

Explanation: Experience has shown that repetitive messages about the perils of drinking/taking drugs and driving have had a positive impact on society. Here are some strategies that can be carried out throughout your community — in schools, colleges, medical and health care facilities, and worksites. Remember that your strategies and materials must be culturally appropriate.

Under-21 Activities:

Organize programs adaptable for a broad age range from K-12 and beyond.