BISMARCK, N.D. _ Advertising and marketing are among the tools being used in combating alcohol abuse.
Mark Nelson, the safety division director with the North Dakota Department of Transportation, said the department tries to use educational marketing to help people change their habits of drinking and driving.
“We try to target the emotional side of it. such as the loss of loved ones through drinking and driving,” he said. “We’ve had ads like that out for a period of time.”
Nelson said such advertisements focus on families affected by drunken driving.
He said the North Dakota DOT also uses marketing to fight alcohol-related crimes.
“There are regional DUI task forces, high visibility saturation and sobriety check points in eight regions of the state,” he said. “These are all advertised ahead of time and our officers are out in full force.”
Nelson said the DOT is discussing an educational campaign that would inform the public about new drunken driving laws.
Karin Mongeon, the highway safety office manager for the North Dakota DOT, said advertising campaigns can be of two types: enforcement or social norm.
“We try to influence the public toward a certain behavior,” she said. “The public sees these ads and that this behavior is really the norm.”
Don’t Forget To Designate a Driver, also known as Don’t Forget TODD, is a campaign that features Todd, a character that appears in advertisements and always volunteers to be a sober driver.
The DOT also is involved in the Parents LEAD (listen, educate, act and discuss) program, which focuses on underage drinking prevention. Mongeon said it is a partnership among four state agencies: the North Dakota DOT, the Department of Human Services, the NDSU Extension Service and the university system.
The Web-based program provides information at every stage in a child’s life of various discussions to have with child to deter underage drinking and alcohol abuse, Mongeon said.
Mongeon said the DOT conducts an annual survey that asks people about what they’ve read, seen or heard in traffic safety messaging.
“It has shown over the past three years that there is an increase,” she said. “Each year we’re doing better at getting those messages to the public but that doesn’t always translate as behavior change.”
Sgt. Tom Iverson with the North Dakota Highway Patrol said the patrol takes part in numerous activities that educate people about the dangers of drinking and driving.
“Our troopers conduct a large amount of safety talks and presentations across the state,” he said. “Oftentimes, we partner with the North Dakota Department of Transportation or the North Dakota Safety Council for these efforts.”
Iverson said the patrol conducts sobriety checkpoints across the state that aim to deter people from drinking and driving, as well as alcohol saturation programs at peak times of the year.
“Many of these saturations are conducted around holidays and other times of the year where alcohol use may be higher,” he said.
The patrol is a partner with the Multi-Agency Enforcement campaign, which Iverson said involves several law enforcement agencies working together to help enforce DUI violations.
Shannon McQuade-Ely, president of McQuade Distributing, said her company has a couple of campaigns against alcohol abuse.
“There is the We I.D. program that makes sure our accounts don’t serve to underage people in restaurants, bars and liquor stores, as well as the Parents Don’t Provide program which helps parents understand the dangers of serving their children alcoholic products,” she said.
“We don’t want anyone drinking period until they are of drinking age,” she said.
McQuade-Ely said the distributing company advertises through billboards, local magazines and pamphlets handed out at schools. She said $25,000 is spent each year on marketing and programs to prevent drinking and driving and underage drinking.
Part of that money spent is used for the local taxi voucher program. The program, which began in 1981, provides free taxi rides home to people who have had too much to drink in a bar or restaurant. McQuade-Ely said Taxi 9000, Metro Area Taxi and several bars and restaurants are involved in the program.
The cost of the program is split three ways among McQuade Distributing, the taxi services and the restaurants and bars. Gary Schumacher, owner of Taxi 9000, said the taxi companies offer vouchers to McQuade Distributing at a discounted flat rate and McQuade sells those vouchers to restaurants and bars at $6.50 for each voucher. Any additional costs are covered by McQuade Distributing.
In 2012, the program gave 18,000 free rides home to people of drinking age, McQuade-Ely said.
“We want to be good corporate citizens,” she said. “McQuade has a long standing history in the community. Everybody has someone effected in their life by the misuse of alcohol.”
Nelson said the campaigns are trying to save lives.
“We’re all trying to get the public to make smart choices before they decide to get in the car and drink and drive,” he said.