Canada’s Anti-Drunk-Driving Campaigns are Most Successful

A new study found that Canada’s anti-drunk-driving advertisements are more effective than those in some other English-speaking countries. Of the five countries studied, Canada had the highest number of difference anti-drinking-and-driving campaigns and a lower fatality rate than the US. Canada’s annual drunk-driving fatality rate is about 2.61 per 100,000 population compared to the US, which is 4.54. The study, titled Social Marketing Campaigns Aimed at Preventing Drunk Driving, was conducted by the University of Regina and analyzed the quality of English-language anti-drunk-driving communication materials on the Internet. The researchers, led by business professor Magdalena Cismaru and graduate student Evan Markewich, compared 25 campaigns in Canada, the US, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. The researchers searched government websites such as the US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, Health Canada, and similar websites and academic papers from all five countries. The study provides a detailed analysis of campaigns such as the US’s Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Canada’s “Work Hard Play Hard” by Saskatchewan Government Insurance, the United Kingdom’s “Driving and You,” Australia’s “We Are Fighting to Save Lives Campaign,” and New Zealand’s “If You Drink then Drive, You’re a Bloody Idiot.” The analyzed campaigns were compared to the protection motivation theory, a model that emphasizes that social marketing campaigns must not only stress the possibility of severe consequences of negative choices, but must also provide an alternative course of action. Campaigns also need to convince people that they can carry out the desired action to keep themselves safe. “In Canada, we’re very good at giving people some courses of action and giving them encouragement that they can actually carry that out,” said Anne Lavack, dean of the University of Regina’s faculty of business. “We found that in other countries, like Australia for example, they’re very good at arousing fear and telling people how serious it is, but they don’t focus on giving them alternatives for action.” “It seems like a simple thing, that people should be able to think of these different alternatives by themselves,” said Lavack. “But until a few years ago, the idea of choosing a designated driver was really unheard of. So that’s something that these campaigns in Canada have been very successful at pointing out—that there are alternatives to drinking and driving.” Lavack and Cismaru have done a series of studies based on social marketing campaigns about alcohol moderation, racism, and domestic violence. “We’ve been looking at how marketing can be used not just to sell products, but to convince people to behave in healthier ways,” Lavack said. “These campaigns are very valuable in changing people’s behavior,” she continued. “Studies have been done in a number of countries that show when the campaigns are running that they have a positive impact on reducing the number of alcohol-related accidents and the number of alcohol-related automobile fatalities.” She concluded, “So it’s very important for all levels of government to continue to work on these kinds of campaigns to make sure the public is informed and reminded about the serious consequences.”

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