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UCI leads multicampus collaboration to reward use of designated drivers

Irvine, Calif., Feb. 15, 2012 California reported the largest decline in drunk-driving deaths of any state in the nation in 2010, according to recent statistics, and a $232,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to UC Irvine's Health Education Center is helping to keep the trend on track.

In partnership with the RADD College DUI Awareness Program, UCI has organized nine universities into a consortium over the last two years to prevent and promote alternatives to drinking and driving. The new funding will allow UCI to add four more campuses to the effort this year.

"Students are receptive to the program because we don't tell them what not to do," said Doug Everhart, interim director and alcohol programs manager at UCI's Health Education Center. "Instead, we point out what they can do. If they're going out and choose to drink, they need to assign a designated driver, take a taxi, walk to the event, or have some other plan for getting there and back safely."

The ideas are not a particularly hard sell at UCI. Nearly half the students don't drink alcohol at all, according to surveys, and only a small percentage participate in high-risk behaviors. "We have a respectful culture here that's receptive to these positive alternatives, which helps us maintain a safe campus community," Everhart said.

With its initial grant of $451,000, UCI engaged UC Davis, Cal State Sacramento, USC, Cal State Fullerton, San Diego State, UC San Diego, the University of San Diego and Cal State San Marcos in the endeavor.

"We saw the San Diego region as a model," said Kristin Mendoza, grants project coordinator at UCI's Health Education Center, "because it had representation from a UC, the Cal State system and a private university. So this year we're looking to replicate that by adding the University of the Pacific in the Sacramento area and UCLA and Cal State Northridge in the Los Angeles region."

The private university in Orange County is still to be determined, and plans are in the works to expand the consortium to the Bay Area and Inland Empire in coming years.

The RADD College DUI Awareness Program funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration uses a variety of tactics to get its message across. At UCI, the unit appears at campus events such as Shocktoberfest, Reggaefest and Wayzgoose and speaks to Greek leaders and athletic teams. Toyota donated a 2012 Scion xB wrapped with RADD graphics to help spread the word at UCI and other participating campuses.

The entertainment industry's voice for road safety, RADD encourages bars and restaurants to provide free nonalcoholic drinks, appetizers and other incentives to designated drivers carrying a RADD card. Participating businesses get free listings on regional websites and a RADD rewards card.

"UC Irvine and RADD have a unique insight into getting the impaired driving message to college students," said Christopher J. Murphy, Director of the Office of Traffic Safety. "The patterns set in these few short years will be with them the rest of their lives."

Recently, RADD's efforts were also lauded in an NHTSA report showing that DUI deaths in California had declined from 950 in 2009 to a record low of 791 in 2010.


Contact: Cathy Lawhon
University of California - Irvine

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