Following the model provided by NAGHSR, a community assessment was conducted and a strategic plan was developed.
The assessment indicated that though existing laws were adequate, underage drinking remained a significant problem in Chesterfield County. Focus groups indicated that alcohol was readily available to youth and that peer pressure and lack of parental supervision led to underage drinking.
SASY initiated a number of activities in pursuit of these objectives, primarily in the area of educational efforts. An innovative and salient activity was conducted in conjunction with the granting of initial driver licenses to youth. In Virginia, initial driver licenses are issued to youth on a monthly basis by a judge in a courtroom. Parents are required to attend. This occurred on the third Monday of every month in Chesterfield County. SASY saw this as an opportunity to present information about the dangers of alcohol to youth and their parents. In cooperation with the Juvenile Justice System, Chesterfield County Police and Fire Departments, Allstate Insurance, the Alcohol Beverage Control Board and the Virginia State Police, they offered information about the dangers of underage drinking, the importance of safe driving, and serious consequences associated with unhealthy behaviors. Their presence was adopted as a regular part of the Judicial License Presentation.
Another major SASY effort was the coordination of a county-wide prom/ graduation program. Whereas before the SASY initiative, alcohol- and drug-free proms had been the province of individual schools and were conducted on a hit-or-miss basis, all nine high schools in the county began participating annually. To promote this level of activity, SASY, with the help of the school system, mailed over 9,500 newsletters to parents of teenagers promoting the program, and SASY helped to establish a county-wide coordinating committee.
SASY also coordinated and conducted numerous high school assembly pro-grams, including one with a member of the U.S. Congress as a presenter, and an-other with a brain-damaged victim of an alcohol-related crash. In addition, they developed a speakers’ bureau to provide presentations to groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Clubs, and school groups.
Program personnel also developed and produced a quarterly publication entitled VOICE, Children At Risk Today. Though its title was associated with the umbrella organization rather than with SASY, much of the content dealt with underage drinking prevention and highway safety. Approximately 2,500 copies of this newsletter were distributed quarterly.
In an effort to support enforcement of underage drinking laws, SASY regularly sponsored events and awards recognizing individual law enforcement officers who made this form of enforcement a priority.
One of the overall project objectives was to encourage each of the sites to identify additional funding sources. SASY applied for and received grants from the Allstate Foundation and the local Rotary Club; however, its main source of funding support remained through the Governor’s Highway Safety Program.
Of course, another long-term objective was to have these programs serve as a model for other jurisdictions. In that regard, a neighboring county incorporated the SASY program into their Juvenile Justice Presentations.
Time series of monthly counts of these crashes were analyzed using the ARIMA analysis method. To make the series stationary as required by ARIMA, 12-span differencing was used. Logarithmic transformations were used to improve the fit to the data. Step function and ramp intervention functions at times near to January, 1997 (the date of the initiation of significant program activity) were examined in the analysis. No statistically significant changes were found in this impact measure, either in Chesterfield County or the remainder of the state (Figures 2-1 and 2-2, respectively). The t-ratio was about +1.6 (p.0.1), both for Chesterfield County and the rest of the state, indicating a slight increase in young drivers in nighttime injury crashes in both areas.
We note that positive effects not reflected in alcohol-related crashes or their surrogates may have occurred in Chesterfield County (for example, reductions in youth drinking). However, the measure of effectiveness used here does not permit an analysis of such other effects. Also, the small number of youth-related crashes in Chesterfield County made it difficult to detect significant changes in such crashes.