Question

Each year drinking and driving behavior are estimated to be responsible for approximately 24,000 traffic fatalities in the United States. Data show that a preponderance of this problem is due to the behavior of young males. Indeed, a disproportionate number of traffic fatalities are young people between 15 and 24 years of age. Market research among young people has suggested that the perverse behavior of driving automobiles while under the influence of alcoholic beverages might be reduced by a mass media communications/advertising program based on an understanding of the “consumer psychology” of young male drinking and driving. There is some precedent for this belief. Reduction in cigarette smoking over the last 25 years is often attributed in part to mass antismoking advertising campaigns.
There is also precedent for being less optimistic because past experimental campaigns against drunk driving have shown little success. Between March and August of 1986, an anti–drinking and driving advertising campaign was conducted in the city of Wichita, Kansas. In this federally sponsored experiment, several carefully constructed messages were aired on television and radio and posted in newspapers and on billboards. Unlike earlier and largely ineffective campaigns that depended on donated talent and media time, this test was sufficiently funded to create impressive anti–drinking and driving messages, and to place them so that the targeted audience would be reached. The messages were pretested before the program and the final version won an OMNI advertising award. To evaluate the effectiveness of this anti–drinking and driving campaign, researchers collected before and after data (preprogram and post program) of several types. In addition to data collection in Wichita, they also selected Omaha, Nebraska, as a control. Omaha, another Midwestern city on the Great Plains, was arguably similar to Wichita, but was not subjected to such an advertising campaign. The following tables contain some of the data gathered by researchers to evaluate the impact of the program.
Table 9.1 contains background demographics on the test and control cities. Table 9.2 contains data obtained from telephone surveys of 18- to 24-year-old males in both cities. The surveys were done using a random telephone dialing technique. They had an 88% response rate during the preprogram survey and a 91% response rate during the post program survey. Respondents were asked whether they had driven under the influence of four or more alcoholic drinks, or six or more alcoholic drinks, at least once in the previous month. The preprogram data were collected in September 1985, and the post program data were collected in September 1986.


Table 9.3 contains counts of fatal or incapacitating accidents involving young people gathered from the Kansas and Nebraska traffic safety departments during the spring and summer months of 1985


(Before program) and 1986 (during the program). The spring and summer months were defined to be the period from March to August. These data were taken by the research team as indicators of driving under the influence of alcohol. Researchers at first proposed to also gather data on the blood alcohol content of drivers involved in fatal accidents. However, traffic safety experts pointed out that such data are often inconsistent and incomplete because police at the scene of a fatal accident have more pressing duties to perform than to gather such data. On the other hand, it is well established that alcohol is implicated in a major proportion of nighttime traffic fatalities, and for that reason, the data also focus on accidents at night among two classes of young people: the group of accidents involving 18- to 24- year-old males as a driver, and the group of accidents involving 15- to 24-year-old males and/or females as a driver.
The categories of accidents recorded were as follows:
• Total: total count of all fatal and incapacitating accidents in the indicated driver group
• Single vehicle: single vehicle fatal and incapacitating accidents in the indicated driver group
• Nighttime: nighttime (8 P.M. to 8 A.M.) fatal and incapacitating accidents in the indicated driver group.
It was estimated that if a similar six-month advertising campaign were run nationally, it would cost about $25 million. The Commissioner of the U.S. National Highway Safety Commission had funded a substantial part of the study and needed to decide what, if anything, to do next.



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  • CreatedApril 01, 2015
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