Topic Resources

Tools Used
Initiated By

Wisconsin Department of Transportation/Bureau of Transportation Safety (WisDOT/BOTS) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin School of Business


MasComm Associates, LLC, Miller Brewing Company, and the Tavern League of Wisconsin, community police, sheriff's departments, public health and transportation departments

  • 17% reduction in alcohol-related crashes within one year
  • A public cost saving of approximately $40,000 per crash avoided
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Road Crew

Strategically, driving ones own car to the bar was considered 'the competition'

Road Crew

Advertising vividly portrayed the key benefit for the target audience: having a good time without the hassle or worries associated with alcohol-impaired driving.

Road Crew Reduces Drunk Driving

Road Crew helps Wisconsin communities provide alternative rides for people who have had too much to drink and then drive home. In the formative research, bar patrons indicated that they wouldn't take a ride home if their cars were at the bar, but would ride home if the program also picked them up at home so their cars wouldn't be available. Road Crew is positioned to allow people to not worry about driving home, and therefore be able to enjoy the evening more fully. The program has given over 85,000 rides and is self-sustaining without using any government revenues in 6 counties of Wisconsin. Road Crew is well suited for replication in small towns and exceptionally well researched and documented. It provides a free on-line toolkit and for-fee consultation to support those following its approach.


To minimize site maintenance costs, all case studies on this site are written in the past tense, even if they are ongoing, as is the case with Road Crew.

In 2000, alcohol impairment was responsible for 6.5% of all automobile crashes in the state of Wisconsin, 38% of motor vehicle fatalities, and 11% of all motor vehicle injuries. A disproportionate share of these impaired drivers was 21-to-34-year-old men living in rural areas where there were few, if any, public transportation options. In Wisconsin, bars and taverns often act as neighborhood social centers and inspire strong community loyalties. This project did not attempt to change this culture. Instead, it sought to help communities provide alternatives for people who have had too much to drink and then drive home .

In 2001, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) funded a proposal from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation/Bureau of Transportation Safety (WisDOT/BOTS) to apply social marketing techniques to community collaborations aimed at reducing drunk driving.

Setting Objectives

The goal of this project was to decrease alcohol-related crashes by 5% within one year among 21-to-34-year-olds, with special emphasis on single men.

Getting Informed

In the mid-1990s, the National Commission Against Drunk Driving held six public hearings and three national conferences focusing on 21-to-34-year-old individuals They found that 21-to-34 year old drinking drivers:

  • Comprised about half of all drunk drivers involved in alcohol-related fatal crashes;
  • Were responsible for more alcohol-related fatal crashes than any other age group;
  • Were more likely than any other age group to have been intoxicated at the time of the crash;
  • Had the highest blood alcohol concentrations in fatal crashes;
  • Were about twice as likely as other drivers to have experienced a prior crash;
  • Were four times more likely to have had their licenses suspended or revoked; and
  • Were the most resistant to changing their drinking and driving behavior.

This case began in 2000 when extensive focus group research was used to develop an in-depth description of a 21-to-34-year old man to better understand what motivated him to drink to excess and then drive home. Focus group participants were also asked to suggest ideas for alternative and appealing transportation options.

There were two sets of statewide focus groups. In the first set of focus groups, consisting of seven groups, researchers questioned expert observers, those who regularly interacted with this cohort when they have had too much to drink. This included bar owners and servers, public health workers, EMS personnel, and law enforcement officials. These focus groups were done first so the researchers would gain insights before talking with the target audience. Eleven focus groups were then conducted with bar patrons; these took place in bars and taverns.

Why People Drank; Insights to Help in Separating Them From Their Cars

The research found that in general, people drank to:

  • Socialize,
  • Increase confidence,
  • Have a good time,
  • Get away from the hassles of daily life, and
  • Overcome inhibitions and develop a different and more exciting personality.

From a broad perspective, there were many barriers that discouraged the target audience from leaving their cars behind when they had drunk too much.

Single young men drove after drinking excessively:

  • To get home,
  • Because they felt fearless and invincible,
  • Because they were unaware that their driving skills were impaired,
  • Because there was social pressure to be like everybody else and to fit in,
  • To relax and have a good time by cranking up music and driving fast,
  • Because they perceived that there was no other way to get home without a lot of hassle, and
  • Because the perceived risks of actually getting caught or crashing were low.

For most, the vehicle was sacrosanct. It was their single largest investment and source of pride. It gave them:

  • A feeling of control,
  • The option open of taking a woman home, and
  • An enhanced identity.

In a small town, where everyone knows who owns what vehicle, the automobile can reveal its owner's secrets. Leaving it in the parking lot and hitching a ride home sounds an alarm to everyone in town on matters that might not sit so well in the harsh light of day: his buddies might razz him for needing a ride home, his mom's best friend may comment she saw his car in the bar parking lot Sunday morning; again. It's also true that in many communities, vehicles left unattended overnight can be ticketed, or damaged by another drunk driver.

Other reasons for not wanting to leave their cars behind at the tavern included:

  • Loss of freedom in not having a vehicle immediately available,
  • Inconvenience of waiting for a ride or walking a distance to get to the vehicle,
  • Being seen as a wimp who is not able to drive while drunk,
  • Embarrassment at being associated with an "uncool" ride format, and
  • Not wanting the fun of the evening to end.

One critical insight gleaned was that the target audience was apt to drive home no matter what their blood alcohol level. But people couldn't drive home impaired if they didn't drive themselves to the bar in the first place. Separating consumers from their car before leaving their homes would prevent impaired persons from driving home after a night of drinking. This circumvented the potential barriers described to driving after consuming too much, discussed above (Overcoming Specific Barriers). Once this decision was made, the action being promoted was to use the Road Crew service, so the barriers to the action being promoted were more specific - what would discourage people from taking the service. These later types of barriers are discussed below, under Implementation.

Understanding The Competition

  • The behaviour being promoted was to use the Road Crew service, rather than one's own car, when drinking. The 'competition' was the alternative: taking one's own car and driving home after drinking too much.

While many people drove after excessive drinking, they tended to worry about it excessively as well. They reported nagging concerns about car crashes, the cost of OWI convictions, repercussions on car insurance rates, job security, and the social shame within the extended multi-generational network of their community. This anxiety distracted them from an otherwise enjoyable evening of camaraderie. The program planners recognized this as a critical weakness in what was being offered by the competition, and positioned their campaign around having a good time without the hassle or worries associated with alcohol-impaired driving.

Delivering the Program


Planners recognized the need to develop an appealing name, logo, and identity for the program, along with promotional materials that would resonate with the target market. While the program would provide a tangible service with tested benefits to capture their minds, an emotional sell was required to capture their hearts. An advertising agency was hired to create a consistent set of messages that were provided to communities for local customization. Input was solicited from community leaders and the target market on a range of ideas presented by the agency.

The unique benefit provided by the Road Crew, as perceived by the target market, was that riders could have a good time without the hassle or worries associated with alcohol-impaired driving. Therefore the "Road Crew, Beats Driving" advertising, logo and slogan, conveyed a "no hassle" theme of fun and convenience (Building Motivation Over Time; Vivid, Credible, Personalized Communication). A Road Crew poster won a local advertising award. (See sidebar)


After receiving a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the project team invited community representatives from across the state to attend a daylong training conference and to subsequently submit proposals to pilot the approach in their communities. Conference information was distributed to municipalities and county governments throughout Wisconsin. Communities with an expressed interest in trying new approaches to highway safety were contacted directly by Regional Program Managers, who helped interface between the Department of Transportation and the communities.

The conference, entitled Social Marketing: A New Approach to Addressing Alcohol-Related Crashes in Wisconsin, provided an overview of the principals of social marketing and of the Road Crew model. Participants were also given a copy of the focus group research, and a toolbox of resources to support their efforts in developing a coalition and ride program. This toolbox was prepared as the primary resource for communities to use in fashioning their proposals and as an ongoing reference as they launched their programs. It proved to be a most useful blueprint for the program, laying out the steps communities needed to launch their individual efforts. The toolbox was subsequently revised based on the experience and input of the grantees.

Fifteen communities attended the training conference and many came with fairly complete coalitions already in place. Four proposals were selected in 2002, three communities developed programs that ran successfully for over a year, and two have been self-sustaining ever since and are still operating at the time of writing (April, 2005). In May 2002, approximately one month after proposals were selected, a second meeting took place. It focused on launching a new business and reviewed social marketing concepts in each community proposal.

The four selected communities were given resources to develop their own programs within guidelines. Local decisions were made with respect to the type of vehicles, paid or volunteer drivers, days and times of operation, routes, pricing and promotions, among others. In addition, each community was asked to develop an advisory board of 21-to-34-year-old men to be involved in all stages of development. [The most successful communities worked closely with the target, and passed all potential strategies by their advisory board before implementation.]

A third statewide meeting took place in October 2002, which allowed communities to share stories about their launch and successes to date. As with the previous meeting, refining marketing plans was an integral part of the day. A fourth and final event, in September 2003, included results of project research, final reports from communities, a press conference, and a celebration of the communities' successes.

Road Crew staff provided technical assistance on a wide range of issues. Site visits, phone calls, and daylong conferences were key components of the on-going support provided to communities. These included meetings with community coalitions and with target-age advisory groups. There were also meetings as requested either by the local community or the state staff to facilitate partnership conversations or assist in problem solving. There was a greater need for site visits than originally anticipated. It was concluded that at least three visits per site should take place: early in the project, at an interim stage, and late in the project. Each site visit should include meetings for coalition members and the target-age advisory committees.

Community tracking took place primarily by regularly scheduled phone calls. In the early months of the program, local community coordinators checked-in with the state community coordinator on a bi-weekly basis. This frequent contact was important in helping communities shape projects and keep them on track.



Managed by the Polk County Tavern League, older limousines provided the basis for a fun, upscale, and funky way to make stops between the numerous small bars, and offered a safe and economical way to get home at the end of the evening. Limos, staffed by professional drivers and dispatched from a central point, allowed groups of up to a dozen people to bar hop. It was not uncommon to have groups sign up for an entire evening, including home pick-up and drop-off.

When Polk County's bar owners returned from the initial Road Crew training conference, they immediately convened an advisory board of 21-to-34-year-old single men.

  • Based on their knowledge of their own customers, they tapped the more influential and charismatic patrons to serve on the board. This strategy of getting tavern's alpha males vested in the program helped the Party Barge gain rapid acceptance among the tavern's regular patrons.
  • The advisory group suggested limos as the mode of transportation. This gave instant status and prestige to the program, proving to be an excellent choice for an alternative ride option (Incentives; Norm Appeals; Overcoming Specific Barriers).

    • With the Road Crew logo on the side, the vehicles created their own publicity.
    • For a target market concerned about image, limos were seen as a cool choice.
    • The target market liked to socialize with groups of friends and needed to fit in, and limos provided an environment for them to do so.
    • The novelty was its own incentive for people who had never ridden in a limo.
  • The program launched with advisory board members inviting friends to join them in riding for free to test the program. Gaining visibility via the opinion leaders proved important.
  • The advisory board was also instrumental in providing feedback to bar and limousine owners on fares. The original fee structure was adapted when costs for unlimited rides appeared quite high compared to the cost of one-way rides. While riders were willing to pay, having a price that was seen as too high had a strong impact on demand. See below for a discussion of pricing.


Dodgeville and Mineral Point are approximately eight miles apart from one another. There was a steady flow of traffic between these two large communities and several smaller communities by members of the target group.

This community's advisory group became the core from which volunteer drivers emerged. One of the benefits of being a volunteer driver was that volunteers could ride free on their off nights. This became a popular incentive to both recruit drivers and build customer loyalty (Building Motivation Over Time, Incentives). A team of 80 volunteer drivers staffed the program. As a result, both riding and driving had become part of the social scene.

There were five older vehicles in the Dodge-Point Road Crew fleet: two 6-passenger limos and one 10-passenger limo accommodating large groups, a Cadillac Sedan, and a Lincoln Town Car Sedan.


The goal of this project was to induce the target group to use an already well-established, low-cost cab service. The program offered subsidized rides after 5 p.m., seven days a week, primarily within Tomah city limits. Riders using the program were offered $2 off their fare on rides home; those requesting rides to a bar received coupons for $2 off the price of food or games at participating establishments. Either riders or wait staff could call the cab companies for rides.


This program was in operation from late November 2002 until New Years Eve 2002. The plan at that time was to augment a Safe Ride program already in place. There were numerous factors that contributed to the demise of this effort, but the major problems were at the administrative level. There was both a lack of trust and respect between project leadership and the primary vendor, and a lack of political support at the county level to encourage this pilot project to proceed.


Fare structures were changed several times over the course of the year. Polk County began with a pricing system that included one fare for the entire night ($20); a segment fare ($3); and a fare for rides home ($5). The $20 fare was arrived at in collaboration with the target, but upon initiation of the service, it was clear that $20 was more than the target was willing to pay. Reducing the price ($15) for an evening of service greatly increased service use. Patrons could still purchase single rides ($4), including a ride home.

Dodge-Point offered unlimited rides within the core service area for $5. The program subsidized much of the costs, essentially providing free rides to drinking venues and charging $5 for the ride home. Drivers were often times told by members of the target that the fare was too low. However, the low fares in the first year likely acted as an incentive for the target to try the service and build customer loyalty that will help to support its future. Dodge-Point had no geographic restrictions, but did add a surcharge of up to $10 for rides outside a predetermined zone.


  • May 2000 - December 2000 Focus groups (seven with expert observers, 11 with target)
  • January 2001 - July 2001 Program launch in two pilot communities explored, but not implemented due to lack of funding and other problems
  • October 2001 WisDOT/BOTS receives NTSHA grant
  • October 2001 - January 2002 Statewide planning conference organized,
  • Call For Proposals distributed, and toolbox written
  • January 2001 Statewide-planning conference held
  • February 2002 Proposals due
  • March 2002 Winning communities notified
  • March - June 2002 Communities plan program, hire coordinators
  • April 2002 Kick-off meeting for grantees
  • June 2002 Pre-project data collection
  • June 2002 First community begins offering rides
  • July 2002 Second community begins offering rides
  • Sept 2002 Third community begins offering rides
  • October 2002 First Lessons Learned conference
  • November - December 2002 Fourth community begins and ends service
  • June 2003 Post-project data collection
  • July 2003 Research period ends
  • July 2003 - September 2003 Communities discuss sustainability issues
  • September 2003 Final Lessons Learned conference


An effective strategy for beginning this effort was helping communities develop broad-based coalitions - representative of many different organizations, individuals, and points of view.

  • A partnership of transportation safety specialists, academics, and commercial partners was put in place at the state level. WisDOT/BOTS led this team, in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin School of Business, MasComm Associates, LLC, Miller Brewing Company, and the Tavern League of Wisconsin.

    The Wisconsin Department of Transportation/Bureau of Transportation Safety (WisDOT/BOTS): WisDOT Alcohol Program Manager, Carol Karsten, provided overall program oversight and project management. She was key in providing credibility for and championing the program among law enforcement and traffic safety officials at the local level.

    University of Wisconsin School of Business: Emeritus Marketing Professor, Michael Rothschild, the principal investigator for this project, oversaw all aspects of program research and provided all technical assistance related to social marketing.

    MasComm Associates, LLC: Led by Beth Mastin, this national consulting firm specializing in media and community collaborations, provided ongoing consultation for and tracking of the community coalitions, working closely with both the state team and community coalitions.

    Miller Brewing Company: This partner played a key role in the initiative's promotion efforts, providing funding for the initial version of the project's toolbox and development of the Road Crew brand and advertising efforts. Miller wholesalers serving project communities were encouraged to play an active role in the local coalitions.

    The Tavern League of Wisconsin: The Tavern League was crucial in providing credibility to the local taverns and target market. Without their endorsement of the project, the taverns and target would not have heard the Road Crew message. In addition, a separate collaboration between WisDOT/BOTS and the Tavern League of Wisconsin, known as the ACT 109 Safe Ride program, allows local tavern leagues to subsidize rides home for bar patrons from funds they receive from a portion of every state OWI conviction. Under the leadership of Executive Director Chuck Taylor, the Tavern League of Wisconsin encouraged local leagues to develop ACT 109 programs in collaboration with the Road Crew effort.

  • The endorsement and cooperation of local law enforcement, EMS personnel, and public health practitioners was important for two reasons. First, pragmatically, those who encounter drunken driving crashes on a regular basis understand the gravity of the problem and far-reaching consequences of such crashes. They can be among the strongest and most credible advocates within the local community for a new approach to reducing drunk driving. Second, like the target group, this group had real-life insights into what interventions would or wouldn't work in their community. Often they can help to remove ordinance-related barriers that might stand in the way of the program.

    Police, sheriff's departments, public health and transportation departments were active coalition members in all communities:

    • In the Dodge-Point program, EMS volunteers were active in the coalition and law enforcement agents endorsed the effort.
    • In Tomah, the police department was the lead agency in the initiative. The department agreed to waive parking tickets for cars left on the street or in municipal lots overnight if the vehicle owner used the Road Crew program to get home. One scenario for the continuation of the Tomah program is for it to be administered by its Safe Community Coalition.
    • In Manitowoc County, public health nurses were early champions of the program. The Sheriff's Department was the lead fiscal agency for the program.
    • In Polk County, the County Board of Transportation received reports from Party Barge service, and planners and was highly supportive of their efforts.
  • Each community had an on-going need for a person, or core group, to take key leadership positions as the chairperson of the board and/or executive committee. Asking communities to launch and market Road Crew initiatives required both small business and marketing acumen. For two out of the three communities completing the project, the ride service was new and required organizers to put together a business plan. The result was that in the early months the nuts and bolts of launching a business took precedence over conceptualizing how to market the service. In the two most successful communities, this leadership came from experienced small business owners whose businesses directly or indirectly were impacted by alcohol-related crashes. Dodge-Point, an auto body shop owner spearheaded the effort, quipping that some people might wonder why he would lead an effort that had the effect of reducing his business. In Polk County, three tavern owners shared executive duties. As holders of alcohol sales licenses, all three were committed to being responsible business owners and to the safety of their patrons

  • Grants provided up to $22,500 for communities to hire part-time coordinators for up to 18 months. Community coordinators were expected to take on the myriad responsibilities associated with managing a local initiative. All grant sites underestimated the amount of time required to mange the varied aspects of this position. Three of the four original coordinators juggled Road Crew responsibilities along with other part- or fulltime work. Project management, coalition building, and the creative abilities necessary to raise the profile of the project are time-intensive work. As a result, burnout became a factor.

  • Target group members were instrumental in helping communities determine the type of service that would appeal to young males, including the hours of operation that would work best and techniques to persuade the target to try the service. This point was stressed at the planning conference. In the two grant sites that took this message to heart, both communities developed strong customer loyalty among target age bar patrons.

  • Alcohol service industry participants included bars, taverns and restaurants, Miller wholesalers, and the Tavern League of Wisconsin. In all communities, local Miller wholesalers worked with community coordinators to provide promotional in-kind services, customizing and distributing local Road Crew posters in participating bars. The Tavern League of Wisconsin's endorsement of and involvement in the Road Crew project smoothed the way for local organizers to get bars on board in each community. The cooperation of local bars was also key in gathering research data. In Polk and Manitowoc Counties, local leagues took the lead in organizing efforts, reimbursing rides home as part of the ACT 109 program. In all communities, bar owners, managers, bartenders, and wait staff were important in raising awareness, setting the campaign tone, influencing patrons, and providing incentives for trying the service. It was primarily the bartenders, in fact, who called Road Crew dispatchers to arrange for rides (Word of Mouth; Incentives).

  • Road Crew coalitions sought only modest involvement by business. Local businesses donated goods and services for Road Crew raffles and fundraisers, and coupons for video rentals and pizza to users of the ride service. Hotels in Polk County and Dodge-Point helped promote efforts by distributing flyers about the service to hotel guests.

Financing the Program

The original Road Crew project was funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, with additional support from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Communities were eligible to receive up to $37,500 under the terms of the WisDOT/BOTS grant to cover expenses for up to 18 months. Unspent funds from the aborted Manitowoc County efforts were allocated to the remaining grant recipients. Dodge-Point and Polk County received additional grants of $10,750 each to help sustain their efforts and help defray the higher-than-expected costs that were incurred to maintain the vehicles. Tomah, while eligible, did not apply for additional funding. This increased the total grant amount for Dodge-Point and Polk County to $48,250.

The direct funds allocated to the three communities included the grant awards, the fare collections for rides, community fund raising, and payments made to staff for time committed to community work (as opposed to research and other non-direct community work). The total of these funds was about $230,000

Funding was used for ride reimbursement, promotion and advertising, leasing vehicles, office supplies, phone and equipment, liability insurance, and community coordinator salaries. Monies were not used for office equipment and furnishings, or for the purchase of vehicles.

Unanticipated Expenses: Administrative and operating expenses for running the program were underestimated by grant sites. Vehicle expenses were higher than anticipated for the limousine service, including gas and maintenance costs. The community coordinators for both the Tomah and Dodge-Point projects found it necessary to hire a member of the target group to assist with program promotion. In both instances, the coordinator directly bore the costs of this additional staff.

A separate collaboration between WisDOT/BOTS and the Tavern League of Wisconsin, known as the ACT 109 Safe Ride program, allowed local tavern leagues to subsidize rides home for bar patrons from funds they receive from a portion of every state OWI conviction.

Measuring Achievements


A 20 minute post-test phone survey was conducted after one year to determine awareness and attitudes toward the program among the target group, general population, community leaders, bar owners, and wait staff.


In addition each community kept a log of all rides given, as well as the age and gender of the rider, and the origin, destination, date, and time of each ride.


Finally, the organizers conducted a bar coupon study. They wanted to create an environment within which respondents would feel comfortable in answering honestly. This was important, as they were asking many people to admit to an illegal activity. Tell Us About, a marketing research firm, was hired to collect data through their computerized phone and data collection service.

Bar patrons were given coupon cards by the bar's wait staff. Patrons were told to pocket the coupon, read it the next morning, and then call the 800- number on the coupon. Patrons were offered a $7 voucher for future non-alcoholic purchases at the tavern where they received the coupon; the coupon would be activated after the patron called the number and answered a few questions. Participants were assured their responses would be anonymous. When calling the number, the patron heard an electronic female-like voice again assure them of anonymity and then tell them what to do. For each question the participants only needed to push a number on the phone keypad in order to respond. Upon completion, the patron was given a validation code that activated the coupon for use. The questionnaire included questions about how patrons got home on the night they received the coupon, how much they drank on the night of coupon receipt, and how often they drove after excessive drinking during a typical two week period.

Compared to the demographics of the respondents in the general population telephone survey sample, the respondents in the 2003 treatment group bar sample were more likely to be male (65% versus 37%), and more likely to be younger (35 % were 21-34 versus 16% in the general population).

In the bar coupon study, the "number of alcohol- impaired drivers" was derived by combining two questions, "How did you get home on the night you received the coupon?" and "How many drinks did you have on the night you received the coupon?" Commonly accepted guidelines for intoxication are five or more drinks for a man and four or more for a woman; these were used as the arbitrary standards here.

Another way to estimate alcohol-impaired driving in the field experiment was to ask: "In a typical two-week period, on how many nights do you have five or more drinks and then drive yourself home?"


Results of the Road Crew project significantly exceeded NHTSA's expectations.

  • 19,757 rides were given to potential drunk drivers from July 1, 2002 through June 30, 2003.
  • Rides were estimated to have prevented 15 alcohol-related crashes on area roads, a 17% reduction (see notes, below for calculations).
  • The average cost of an alcohol-related crash in Wisconsin was approximately $56,000; the cost to avoid a crash in the program was about $15,300.
  • There was no decrease in the percent of patrons who admitted to drinking and driving, but there was a significant drop in the frequency of occurrences per person compared with control group behavior. On average, people reduced their number of alcohol impaired driving events by about one time every two weeks.
  • Among those who were aware of the program, over 80% surveyed had positive feelings, and nearly half of those aware perceived a decrease in driving after excessive drinking in the community.
  • Among bar patrons, there was no observable increase in consumption compared to control communities. However, there was an increase in the number of bars visited.
  • Community leaders felt that the program should continue.


The original Road Crew project management team provides consulting services and project administration on an hourly or contractual basis. They also can make available the Road Crew logo and poster. For a free initial consultation, contact:

Beth Mastin Mike Rothschild
President, MasComm Associates UW School of Business
2828 Marshall Court, Suite 101 5601 Tonyawatha Trail
Madison, WI 53705 Madison, WI 53716
Phone 608-236-0674 Phone 608-221-9666
Fax 608-236-0252 Fax 608-221-4644
E-mail E-mail





Successes in the three demonstration communities are a testament to what can be accomplished with strong community-based leadership, public support and technical assistance. The Road Crew model can be replicated in many small towns. What is required at the local level is a strong leadership, a broad coalition of stakeholders and inclusion of the target group in decision-making. Equally important is the commitment of time, entrepreneurial knowhow, and matching community funding to cover costs not eligible for state funding. Technical assistance in social marketing and community problem solving is required to help coalitions customize the model to match the unique characteristics of each community.

There are many tools in place to help you embark upon an initiative to increase roadway safety in your community:

  • The Road Crew brand, including a logo and slogan, has been developed to position the Road Crew as a fun, affordable, hassle free way to enjoy a night on the town without having to worry about driving home.
  • Road Crew program experts, working with your coalition along with an advisory group of young bar patrons, are available to help you customize the brand to reflect the details of your program and the preferences of young bar patrons in your community.
  • The free, on-line program toolbox provides details on how to launch a program, from assembling a coalition and choosing the form of transportation you will offer, to how to provide the right incentives to attract and retain riders.


In 2000, there were (A) 37,508 OWI arrests1, (B) 9,096 alcohol-related crashes in Wisconsin2

In a NHTSA analysis, researchers concluded that in the United States in 1995 there was (C) 1 arrest for every 90 episodes of driving above the legal limit of alcohol consumption3, and (D) 1 arrest for every 790 episodes of driving within two hours of any alcohol consumption.4

Using the above, one can derive that there was (E) = (B/A) x C 1 crash for approximately every 371 episodes of driving while legally intoxicated [E = 1/371] and (F) = (B/A)xD 1 crash for every 3258 episodes of driving within two hours of any alcohol consumption [F = 1/3258]

Based on the bar coupon research in the taverns (self reports of number of drinks consumed and mode of transportation home on the night of the research): (G) 28% of respondents were alcohol-impaired drivers. And based on ride counts, (H) 19,757 rides were gie

At one extreme, if all riders were legally intoxicated then they avoided: (I) = H x E 53 alcohol-related crashes

At the other extreme, if all riders rode within two hours of any level of alcohol consumption, then they avoided: (J) = H x F 6 alcohol-related crashes

Based on the bar coupon data (G), they estimated that they avoided (K) = H x E x G 15 alcohol-related crashes

The population of Wisconsin in 2000 was approximately (L) 5,364,000.5 The population of the three communities was about (M) 50,0006, And represented about (N) = M/L .93% of the state's population.

If crashes and fatalities were spread evenly across the state, then one would expect about (O) = NxB 85 crashes per year in these three communities. (Note that the 85 crashes were estimated for the three communities based on statewide data. A separate estimate was derived based on countywide data for the three counties in question. The resulting value was the same.)

If the program eliminated the possibility for 15 (K) of these crashes to occur, then the program had the following impact in the three communities: (P) = K/O 17.6% reduction in alcohol-related crashes

A potential change of that magnitude might be large enough to be noticed in the communities, and, indeed it was. Across the different questions asked to the various populations in the three communities, there was a recurring feeling that the roads were now safer and that alcohol-impaired driving was less. For example, 78% of the community leaders felt that this program kept people from drinking and driving.


In 2000, there were (B) 9,096 alcohol-related crashes. It is estimated that the total cost of alcohol-related crashes in Wisconsin in 2000 was(Q) about $512 million7. This leads to (R) = Q/B, about $56,000 cost per crash, and the value of avoiding 15 crashes would be (S) = RxK about $840,000.

The direct funds allocated to the three communities included the grant awards, the fare collections for rides, community fund raising, payments made to staff for time committed to community work (as opposed to research and other non-direct community work). The total of these funds is estimated as (T), about $230,000

This leads to (U) = T/K about $15,300 cost per crash avoided. And a savings to all those impacted upon by crashes of (V) = S-T about $610,000. In projecting to the future, it would seem that the figures shown here would be relevant.

The large up- front costs of doing research and getting the project underway would not need to be transferred to future communities or to future years for the present communities. One might expect startup and maintenance costs per community of about $35-40,000, with an additional $20-30,000 needed in the first year to cover the outside assistance required to guide the new community through its startup problems. These costs, to avoid several crashes, would appear to be favorable, given that the average overall cost to the community for each crash is about $56,000. Perhaps 5 crashes were avoided in each of our small communities.


  • Based on their experience, the program planners provide advice about anticipating objections. For example, some in the community might say, "Why spend all this time and effort to keep drunks off the road when you should just try to get them to stop drinking altogether?" They suggest responding that there is no dispute that excessive drinking is unhealthy and has many negative effects on families, friends and the community. But while excessive drinking itself can be self-destructive, it is drunk driving that threatens the safety of the community at large. This project is about making roads safer for the entire community by decreasing the number of drunk drivers. In addition, by trying to change drinking habits, one may alienate one's target ride service customers; they want to drink, but can be helped to stay off the roadways after they choose to do so.

    Some people might be concerned about encouraging greater consumption by providing rides. In focus groups early in the process of developing the Road Crew, participants were asked if they would drink more if they didn't have to drive themselves home. A common response was "we already drink as much as we can; we couldn't possibly drink more." Follow up research showed that there was not an increase in drinking with the implementation of a ride service.

    On the other hand, bar or restaurant owners might think that program organizers are trying to eliminate drinking altogether or hurt their businesses. Instead, they may benefit if the community can find a way to take care of patrons who have had too much to drink. Research has shown that after implementing a ride program in their community, many tavern owners felt their sales went up. They attributed the increase to new customers who felt comfortable drinking outside of their homes when they knew a ride service was available.

    Still other critics may ask about putting time and resources toward "rides for drunks" when one could improve transportation for senior citizens, the disabled, or other individuals within the community. It would be wonderful to have unlimited resources to provide something for everyone. Again, the argument of "why this" gets back to community safety.

  • Public/private partnerships need a liaison in place to help communities manage the sometimes confusing interface between local government and communities. Coalitions found the process of submitting bills to the municipality, waiting for approval from city councils or town boards, and then waiting for payment from the state, to be cumbersome and confusing.

  • It wasn't just 21-to-34-year-old men who needed to be targeted for these efforts to succeed. It was the entire community, each with its own personality and demographic. A maxim in community-based initiatives is that the community owns the problem and the solution. Another maxim is that no two communities are alike. The demographics of the community leaders involved in this effort were not that of typical grassroots organizations, led by public health activists and/or experienced community organizers. Rather, the success or failure of this effort rested on the buy-in and ownership of small town tavern owners and young single men. The challenge for the state program team was to meet these key players on their turf and find a common language to talk about how marketing techniques could be used to affect social behavior.

  • All partners agreed that to be able to collaborate, the initiative would focus solely on the behavior of driving after excessive alcohol consumption. This project was developed to increase highway safety by reducing alcohol-related crashes. It would not have succeeded if the (also important) goal of reducing alcohol consumption had been pursued. It is important to stay focused on a single narrow objective, as it is easy to be distracted so that different and/or less important goals are pursued. Understanding that the target's social life often revolves around drinking, communities were convinced that trying to focus on reducing consumption would undermine the goal of increasing highway safety.

    Using a core marketing principle - selling a positive - the state team understood that if the target group was made to feel badly or shamed about drinking, they would feel humiliated and not buy into using the project's services. This agreement made the initiative more difficult to explain to public health practitioners who work to mitigate a wider range of social ills associated with excess alcohol consumption, but it helped in enlisting the support of local taverns essential to the success of the effort. Without all of the members of the state team transmitting their explicit endorsement of the Road Crew concept to their constituents at the local level, local buy in from key stakeholders would have been very difficult.

  • Options that offer rides to the bars are important, to help avoid the late-night decision-making problem of "Am I okay to drive home?" Focus group participants said that if you want them to take a ride home, you need to get them to the bar in the first place without their cars. They know that they don't make good decisions at bar closing time, so you need to create a situation where they can't make the wrong decision.

    Peak time service is crucial and will have the greatest impact in getting impaired drivers off the road.

    Affordable fares make a big difference in ridership. Listen to the advisors in your target market when determining price for the new service, and be prepared to make changes based on feed-back once the service begins.

    Individuals in the target go out for the evening in groups, so the ride itself needs to be seen as being a fun, positive social activity.

    Each community should consider when it is at greatest risk for alcohol-related crashes, and devote the greatest resources to these times. There are many studies showing that there are disproportionate numbers of alcohol-related crashes on Friday and Saturday nights. As the evening progresses, more crashes occur, so the ride service should make more vehicles available to compensate for increased potential demand. You should confirm that this is the case in your community before developing a service schedule. Other times and days can be added if there is significant demand.

  • A well-designed incentive program will encourage potential users to try the Road Crew for the first time, then encourage repeat usage and build loyalty. This can be difficult as people tend to resist change, even if it is in their own best interest. If the incentive program is not carefully constructed, people will take the incentives that are offered without developing the desired behavior. In the case of drunk driving, you are asking the target market to behave in a way that they might not realize is for their benefit.

    Since they have always gotten home in the past, they also expect to get home safely in the future. You may find that as you build awareness for your ride service and it begins to take hold with the target market, the need for incentives may be reduced or eliminated. Some demonstration communities found that a well-conceived ride program sold itself and incentives were not necessary. As discussed previously, a limousine as the transportation option often became its own popular incentive. Incentives can also be given to other people who may influence driving behavior, such as friends, girlfriends, volunteer drivers, employers and bar staff. In addition to rewarding 21-to-34-year-old single males, consider incentives for other relevant participants. For example:

    • Bar staff might be offered incentives to encourage their customers to use the new service. One demonstration community offered a monthly cash prize to the bartender who made the most referrals to the Road Crew.
    • Volunteer drivers may receive incentives to stimulate their participation, such as Road Crew T-shirts and free rides.
    • Friends, girlfriends and employers can be offered incentives, such as free ride coupons or specialty items, so they encourage others to behave appropriately.
    • Incentives can be given for a first-time trial behavior for the person who usually drives to attract new Road Crew riders. This first step is the most difficult and may need a larger reward. Later the goal is to get repeated use of the ride service - now the reward might be one that is earned after several correct behaviors, much like airlines offer in their frequent flyer programs.
  • This service was designed for a specific target audience that is often excluded from community dialogue. Including them in the development and operation of the program led to stronger buy-in and cooperation. The riders became volunteer drivers and also acted as the sales force to bring in other riders. When the target realized this program was by them and for them, they embraced it more fully.

  • Eventually all products are sold at the retail level. The bars were the Road Crew retailers, the bar staff the sales force. Their cooperation and diligence was vital.

    However, there was a large variance from bar to bar and from community to community in how much individual servers were aware of and promoted the Road Crew service. Local planners must have a plan to continuously keep servers aware of and enthusiastic about the program. These people are busy, and may need their own incentives in order to assist.


    In conclusion, Road Crew provides a good illustration of the following Tools of Change:

    • Building Motivation Over Time
    • Incentive
    • Norm Appeals
    • Overcoming Specific Barriers
    • Vivid, Credible, Personalized Communication

    For step-by step instructions in using each tool, click on the links above. To find a related cased study, click here, and then select "search" and then
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    1. 2000 Wisconsin Alcohol Traffic Fact Book, Wisconsin Department of Transportation,2002.
    2. ibid.
    3. Drinking and Driving Trips, Stops, by the Police, and Arrests, National HighwayTraffic Safety Administration, DOT HS 809 184, 2000.
    4. ibid.
    5. Census 2000 Data for the State of Wisconsin, U.S. Census Bureau,
    6. ibid.
    7. 2000 Wisconsin Alcohol Traffic Fact Book, op cit.


  • This case study was written by Jay Kassirer in 2005, based on the Road Crew Final Report listed above under Contact.

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