Proof: People Will Avoid Driving Drunk – If You Make It Easy Enough

designated drivers reduce DWIs when made easily availableIf you told police and legislators in any community that they could drop their DWI arrests by 50 percent and alcohol-related collisions by 15 percent in a year, they’d listen. And let’s hope they do.

The township of Evesham in New Jersey started a new anti-drunk-driving program a year ago. It was a simple one: give rides to people who have been drinking at a bar and restaurant. The program, which was funded by a foundation and private donations, began with a month-long trial using shuttles and the services of a local designated driver company, and was extended with Uber and BeMyDD.

Evesham Saving Lives has been judged a success. 2,000 people were given rides home during that time. DWI arrests plummeted by half, and collisions due to alcohol went down too. And arrests had been on the increase since the program began.

There are some lessons here:

  • Most people will avoid driving while drunk if the alternatives are readily available.
  • Availability isn’t always enough. Unfortunately, having a phone number of a taxi or DD service isn’t available enough for some people – the designated driver needs to be ready and waiting for them. If that weren’t the case, then drunk driving would already have disappeared wherever taxi services exist. It helps, of course, if the rides are free, as they were in this pilot program.
  • Pressure is still necessary. Many people already plan ahead and avoid drunk driving. A few will drive drunk no matter what. In the middle are people who will do the right thing if they are prodded a little bit. The Evesham Saving Lives program provided that impetus, and as long as it’s operating, the roads of Evesham and its partner town Voorhees will be safer.

The trick, then, is to keep up the pressure to use designated drivers and avoid impaired driving, even when the alternatives aren’t free and dropped into your lap. That is puzzle that the whole country is trying to solve. Perhaps Evesham Saving Lives is once piece of it.