In December 1986, Massachusetts enacted the Safe Roads Act. Courts can now suspend the license at arraignment up to 90 days or until trial of any driver with a blood alcoholic level >.10%. Drunk driving penalties were increased particularly for drivers under 21. Such laws often achieve only short term reductions in drunk driving and traffic deaths. To achieve longer term reductions a $3.5 million Massachusetts- Commonwealth Fund Traffic Safety Program will provide 3-year $280,000 grants to six Massachusetts cities with >500 annual traffic injuries. Community programs start June 1988 and must include 1) increased police enforcement 2) public information 3) educational programs for middle and high schools 4) corporate efforts to reduce drunk driving and increase seat belt use 5) server education programs and 6) community task forces comprised of government officials, law enforcement officers, educators, media, civic groups and local business to coordinate and sustain programs after grant completion. A Quasi experimental study will compare Massachusetts to New England. Within Massachusetts, randomly allocated program cities and control cities will be compared. Education, enforcement and program management activities will be examined. Drunken driving arrests and convictions will be compared in program and control communities and in Massachusetts relative to New England before and after the law and the program begins, as will fatal and night fatal crashes, and driver fatalities involving intoxicated drivers per 100 million vehicle miles driven. Within Massachusetts injury and night injury crashes will also be monitored. Random digit dial telephone surveys of 1,200 persons, aged 21+, in program communities and 200 in control communities and 200 in the rest of the state will be conducted in 1988 before the program and again in 1989 and 1990. At the same time 1,700 adolescents (aged 16-20) statewide will be surveyed, 500 in communities and 500 in the comparison cities. Surveys will query respondents' perceptions of drunk driving law enforcement, exposure to program education and social pressures not to drive drunk, their own drinking and driving are related traffic safety behaviors. Results will be compared to annual Massachusetts wide adult and adolescent surveys collected during pre law years 1983-1986. Whether the law, when combined with the community educational/enforcement program, can produce sustained changes in drunken driving and related fatalities and injuries should be of interest to states nationwide.
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