The Travis County Underage Drinking Prevention Program evolved out of a comprehensive community traffic safety program (CTSP), which for the period 1992-1996 had dealt with DWI, occupant protection and bicycle safety issues. The anti-DWI component of the CTSP targeted both underage and legal age drinkers. The new Travis County UDPP focused solely on underage drinking prevention. Funding for both of those programs (CTSP and UDPP) came from the Texas Governor’s Highway Safety Program. In 1996, during the final year of funding for the CTSP, the new Travis County Underage Drinking Prevention Pro-gram emerged at the same time as the comprehensive community traffic safety program. The new program was housed in the Travis County Attorney’s Office because the CTSP was located in that office. The CTSP had been set up there be-cause that office handled the prosecution of DWI cases, which was the most serious CTSP concern. During 1996, both programs were operating simultaneously with staff members performing double duties. In 1997, the new Travis County UDPP became the primary focus of that office. UDPP program staff, at the time of this study, included a full-time program coordinator, one full-time assistant, one part-time community educator who handled community presentations and an information booth at community events (covered by county funds), and one part-time clerk. The program continued with funding from the Texas Governor’s Highway Safety Program.
Because there was an existing program, there were some issues modifying it to fit the overall model being tested. One area which required a great deal of attention was creating the Task Force. There were many support groups in existence such as the Safe Kids Coalition dealing with community involvement, health issues and children (which helped meet the criteria of receiving funds to begin with), but not a task force specifically for underage drinking prevention. So, during the first year, a UDPP task force was created comprised of county-wide social service agencies, law enforcement and other interested agencies and individuals that included the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Department of Health, City of Austin Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and several school districts.
A needs assessment concluded that underage drinking was clearly a problem in the Austin area as indicated by alcohol-related traffic crashes involving youth. A Texas school survey indicated over a quarter of youth had driven a car after drinking and nearly one fifth reported heavy drinking. Another indicator cited was that University students were promoting designated driver programs.
A task force mission statement was developed “To create a community consensus that underage drinking is illegal, unhealthy, and unacceptable.” Program objectives and tasks are outlined below:
The program provided community education through a 45 minute video presentation entitled, “Why Risk It?” that was shown at schools, halfway houses, re-creation centers, fairs, etc. This presentation was developed in 1992 under the CTSP program. Promotional items such as key chains, small notepads, and pencils were distributed. In addition, a television show entitled “Focus on Youth and Alcohol” was produced monthly and shown on the local access cable channel. The show host was the UDPP coordinator and underage drinking prevention was the primary focus of the show. New shows were produced monthly and aired several times during the month. UDPP also worked with NHTSA and the Texas Department of Transportation on their campaigns at the high risk times of the year (Christmas and New Year’s, Spring Break, Project Graduation, etc.).
A major focus of the program was to make presentations in the schools about issues surrounding underage drinking. During the school year, a part-time educator gave presentations throughout the school district.
Another service the program provided was scheduling community service work for violators of the Texas underage drinking zero tolerance laws for youth and drinking driving.
Due to their location in Austin, the state capital, project staff and task force members were visible to state legislators when they were debating a youth zero tolerance law. UDPP staff also worked closely with the Texas Alcoholic and Beverage Commission.
Time series of monthly counts of these nighttime-injury crashes involving young drivers were analyzed using the ARIMA analysis method. A step-function intervention at January, 1996 (when the project activities were begun) was used in the analysis. The model for Travis County used a logarithmic transformation of the dependent variable, while the model for the remainder of the State did not. Neither model showed any change at the intervention point (Figure 5-1 and Figure 5-2). The t-ratio for Travis County was -0.11, and the t-ratio for the remainder of the State was +0.26. (A t-ratio of about 2 is required for statistical significance at the 0.05 level.) As with the impact evaluations in the other sites, positive effects not reflected in alcohol-related crashes or their surrogates may have occurred in Travis County. However, the measure of effectiveness used here does not permit an analysis of such other effects.