Millions of dollars are spent every year on drunk driving prevention campaigns which spread awareness of DUI laws and encourage drivers to behave responsibly. But are DUI prevention campaigns effective? Do these publicity efforts actually prevent drunk driving and save lives?

If you’ll keep reading, you are going to learn more about drunk driving prevention campaigns, their sponsors, their history, and their effectiveness. You will also learn where you can turn for legal help if you are arrested and charged with driving under the influence in southern California.

As you know, drunk driving prevention campaigns have been assisted over the last four decades by some of the world’s most famous celebrities, including Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Shaquille O’Neil, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Steven Tyler, and Jamie Lee Curtis.


Drunk driving prevention campaigns first emerged in the 1980s, when many of us still did not realize the extent of the drunk driving problem in the United States. The early 1980s is when the Ad Council began working with ad agencies to find ways to reduce drunk driving in the U.S.

In 1983, the U.S. Department of Transportation partnered with the Ad Council to create the first drunk driving prevention campaign.

That earliest campaign, “Drinking and Driving Can Kill A Friendship,” was directed at drivers who were 16-to-24 years old – a group that, at the time, was involved in more than 40 percent of all alcohol-related fatal traffic accidents.


The early 1980s was also the era when Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was founded. Since that time, MADD has worked aggressively for stricter DUI laws and has increased the public’s awareness about the dangers and extent of the driving under the influence problem.

By the 1990’s, even alcohol manufacturers themselves were promoting drunk driving awareness. Anheuser-Busch’s advertising encouraged the company’s customers to “Drink Responsibly,” and in 2015, the Carlsberg Group launched its “Global Beer Responsibility Day” campaign.

From “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” to “Buzzed Driving IS Drunk Driving,” U.S. consumers have been the target of drunk driving prevention campaigns for almost four decades. What has been the cumulative effect of these publicity campaigns? Have lives been saved?

The answer to that question is yes – although since 1999, it seems that the effectiveness of these consciousness-raising efforts may be declining.


How effective have the prevention campaigns been? By 1986, only three years after the “Drinking and Driving Can Kill A Friendship” campaign was launched, a Roper poll indicated that 62 percent of young U.S. drivers were conscious and aware of the drunk driving problem.

Additionally in that 1986 Roper poll, 34 percent of drivers ages 16-to-24 in the U.S. – more than a third – reported that they did not drink at all when they planned to drive.

By the early 1990s, as the “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” campaign saturated radio and television airwaves, alcohol-related traffic deaths dropped a full 10 percent from 1990 to 1991 – the largest single-year decline on record.

While accidents that involved alcohol still claimed over 17,000 lives in 1994, that figure represented a 30 percent decline from the 1990 figure. In 1998, alcohol-related accidents produced fewer fatalities than in any year on record.

In summary, since 1982, drunk driving fatalities on the nation’s streets and highways have declined by 48 percent, while total traffic fatalities have declined by only 16 percent. It is clear that drunk driving prevention campaigns are effective – when enough people can be reached.


Alcohol-related traffic deaths hit a low point in the late 1990s, but the numbers have been slowly rising since that time. Young people, in particular, are leaving TV and radio to get more of their entertainment online, so fewer people are being reached by drunk driving awareness campaigns.

Fatality numbers dropped only slightly each year from 2005 through 2009 as the “Buzzed Driving IS Drunk Driving,” campaign was hitting the airwaves.

Now in 2019, every day in this country, an average of 28 people die in crashes that involve drivers who are impaired by alcohol or drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That number sadly equates to more than one fatality every hour, every day.


Drunk driving awareness campaigns have perhaps reached a saturation point. Much more still needs to be done. What can the average person do to reduce drunk driving fatalities in your own community?

  1. Set the example. Don’t drink and drive. If you’re going to drink away from home, designate a driver, pay a ride-for-hire, or find somewhere you can sleep for the night.
  2. Talk to your teens about the dangers of drinking and driving. Make sure they understand that along with legal penalties and the possibility of injury or death, a DUI conviction for a young person can severely limit that youth’s educational and career opportunities.

Even though drivers know the dangers of drunk driving, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence tells us that two out of every three persons in the U.S. will be involved in an alcohol-related traffic collision at some point in their lives.

Drinking and driving do not mix, but despite strict laws and massive prevention campaigns, some people still do it. Thankfully, groups like MADD, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, and the Ad Council are continuing to sponsor DUI prevention campaigns.


If you are charged with driving under the influence here in southern California, it is imperative to obtain the advice and representation of an experienced and effective DUI defense attorney as quickly as possible. It’s useful to familiarize yourself with the court process as well. 

A good DUI attorney may challenge the legality of your DUI arrest, the reliability of a blood or breathalyzer test, or the testimony of the arresting officer. Your lawyer will use every available and proper legal tool to bring your driving under the influence case to its best possible resolution.

Still, it’s better to avoid DUI trouble entirely, to heed the advice of the drunk driving awareness campaigns, and to avoid drinking when you plan on driving. Don’t drink and drive. Tell your kids. Nothing is more important than your life, your family, and your future.