Sitting in the back seat of her parent´s car, a small child gazes out of her window. In oversized lettering, a message reads—"if you’re a parent, don’t drink and drive." That message is displayed on billboards throughout Hood River, Oregon, reminding parents what´s at stake if they drink irresponsibly. This is just one example of the unique strategies used by the Hood River County Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Coalition in Hood River and the Lucas County Community Prevention Partnership, Inc. in Toledo, Ohio to reduce impaired driving and underage drinking in their communities. Both were honored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and CADCA last month with a Community Initiative Award.
The NHTSA Community Initiative award is awarded annually at CADCA’s National Leadership Forum to two community organizations that have demonstrated a commitment to traffic safety issues through comprehensive community-based initiatives. Awardees receive a scholarship to CADCA’s Forum and recognition in front of 3,000 of their peers during CADCA’s Award’s Luncheon.
Through comprehensive community-wide efforts, the Hood River County Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drug Coalition reduced binge drinking among 8th graders from 20.3 percent in 2004 to 13.6 percent in 2006—a 33 percent decrease. They also helped reduce 30-day alcohol use among 8th graders by 12 percent.
A big reason for their success, says Hood River’s Maija Yasui, are the group’s “Student Safety on the Move” clubs, which are comprised of students in Hood River County school districts. The clubs develop billboards to educate fellow students on the dangers of drinking and driving, create public service announcements to enforce the underage drinking laws, and hold public forums on underage drinking.
“Youth are the ones that have the best connection to their peers. They have a better understanding of what their peers think and do, so it made sense to get youth involved in all aspects of prevention,” explained Yasui, the coalition’s prevention coordinator. “We engaged youth in the community to the point that now they do their own fundraising and they have strong visibility in the community.”
Hood River’s youth have also been instrumental in reducing the sale of alcohol to underage youth through a campaign with the Oregon Liquor Control office and lawmakers. They write letters to local retailers, participate in decoy missions and send thank you letters to those retailers who obey the underage drinking laws. “We know this peer-to-peer work will make a big impact in the long run because when you engage youth in positive activities, they’re connected more to community and less likely to use,” Yasui said.
The Lucas County Community Prevention Partnership, Inc. in Toledo, Ohio has been equally successful at reducing underage drinking sales. The group achieved an 8l percent decrease in stores that sell without checking IDs, an 11 percent decline in DUI arrests and a 25 percent drop in impaired driving deaths in 2002.
Key to their success was a strong partnership with law enforcement and local retailers and restaurants, which allowed them to implement several environmental prevention strategies. For example, they worked with local establishments that serve alcohol to conduct server training, and collaborated with liquor and other retail stores on a “sticker shock” program, which placed stickers in the stores reminding clients that it’s against the law to buy alcohol for minors. “It’s a gentle reminder to people about the underage drinking law and of the consequences of breaking this law,” explained Deacon D. Dzierzawski, CEO of The Lucas County Community Prevention Partnership.
The group also targeted teens who obtain alcohol from other people’s homes, based on a survey that showed that most kids were getting their liquor from their friend’s homes. They localized a statewide initiative known as “Parents who Host Lose the Most,” which educates parents about the rules and legal consequences of hosting teenage drinking parties.
It was the combination of educational campaigns with local hands-on interventions, Dzierzawski said, that led to the community’s impressive reductions. “It’s not one single strategy that achieved our outcomes, it was the culmination of multiple strategies and the ability for people to understand the impact of their decisions that they make on an individual level,” he noted.
To view pictures from CADCA’s National Leadership Forum XVII, visit CADCA’s Web site at www.cadca.org. Complete coverage of the conference will be available this Spring in CADCA’s biannual newsletter, Coalitions.