58.1% admit to driving within one hour of having one or more alcoholic drinks
Evaluation of Female Driver Responses
A. Demographic Profile of Participants
Ninety-four young women (41 in Maryland and 53 in Wisconsin) participated in the 12 focus groups. The average age of the participants was 26.1 years. The Wisconsin participants were younger (average 23.8 years) than those in Maryland (average 28 years), primarily because we included underage drinkers (18 women) in the Wisconsin groups. Just more than half of the participants completing the Participant Information Form identified themselves as White (57%) and more than one-third (37%) identified themselves as African Americans. The other members identified themselves as Hispanic and of mixed race. The women in the Washington, DC, area focus groups were more likely to be African Americans (61%) than their Madison area counterparts.
About three-quarters of the women were employed outside the home, and most (65%) were employed full time. Most of the women who were not employed were students. Virtually all of the participants had white-collar jobs. The largest category of occupations was professional (40%) with another quarter (27%) in clerical positions. Only one person was a blue-collar worker.
This table includes data on 93 of the 94 participants.
More than 70% of the women had some postsecondary education, including almost a third (31%) who had graduated from college. One participant was a high-school student. The Washington, DC, area participants had more formal education than the Madison area participants. The women in Maryland were more likely to have a 4-year college degree (24.4% in Maryland and 9.6% in Wisconsin).
Half of the participants' families earned between $30,000 and $50,000 a year. About one-third of the respondents earned less than $30,000. There were no differences in income levels between the two locales.
Slightly less than half (44%) the women were single and had never married. About a quarter of them were married, and another quarter were living with a boyfriend or partner. The Maryland participants were more likely to be single than those in Wisconsin, but the Wisconsin participants were more likely to be living with a boyfriend or partner. These data explain why the women in Wisconsin had household incomes equal to those of the more educated women in Maryland, as they were more likely to live in multi-income households.
Seventy percent of the women had no dependents living with them. Of those who did, the average number of children per household was 1.9. Just more than half of the women lived in a suburb (53%), and slightly less than half (42%) lived in a city, primarily Madison. About 5% of the participants lived in a rural area.
B. Driving Habits and Attitudes
The participants in our 12 focus groups first discussed their driving patterns, which included various circumstances, traffic conditions, and distances (e.g., from more than 60 miles a day to just a few miles every day). Traffic is more congested in the Washington, DC area, and commutes were longer than in Madison. Many voiced their frustrations with traffic, aggressive drivers, long commutes and road construction. The youngest women in the groups appeared to drive somewhat less, probably due to their student status.
Participants characterized their driving as primarily during rush hour (60%) in medium to heavy traffic (52%) or light to medium traffic (34%). These are self-defined terms, realizing that rush hour in the Washington, DC, area means something different than it does in the Madison area.
The women also thought of themselves as safe drivers, taking typical driving risks (61%) or being more cautious than most drivers (27%). Most (70%) wore a safety belt all the time. However, 65% of the participants reported that they drove more than 15 miles per hour over the speed limit "occasionally" or "very often." Approximately half of them had been stopped for a traffic violation in the past 3 years, primarily for speeding.
When they travel with a man, they indicated that the man is more likely to be the driver. However, it also appears to depend on their relationship with the male, who owns the vehicle, and personal preference. Several women mentioned that they often drove if their significant other had been drinking. Quotes from three participants follow:
Men were thought to be more aggressive, more confident, less patient and more willing to take risks while driving.
In contrast, the women often characterized female drivers as cautious and responsible. They believe women are more aware of their surroundings when they are driving and that mothers are even more cautious when their children are in the vehicle. Age also seems to make a difference. Several women said that they took more driving risks when they were younger and that younger men take more risks than older men.
C. Drinking Behaviors and Attitudes About Drinking and Driving
The participants had a range of drinking behaviors. Some said they rarely drank: only with dinner or one drink at a party. One young woman was a self-described "binge drinker," and others said they drank virtually every day, often all night. Drinking was primarily a social activity, occurring in bars, at parties, with friends in their homes or at special times such as at sporting events or community festivals. The underage drinkers were more likely to drink at parties although they also drank at bars. Most participants said they drank on the weekends although some drank on weekday evenings as well. Drinking was either with dinner or at a social event, or when "going out drinking" was the stated purpose of the evening's activities.
We know from participant information data that approximately half of the focus group members drink a few times per month, and another 38% drink a few times per week. About 1 in 10 seldom drink. Drinking is primarily a social activity, occurring at parties or social gatherings (48%) and with family and friends at home (18.3%). However, from the discussions, it is clear that much of the social drinking in the first category actually occurs in bars. Only 7% indicated that they usually drank alone.
More than half the participants (58%) said they drive within one hour of drinking, but only one woman had been ticketed for DWI. The women in our focus groups in Maryland were more likely than their Wisconsin counterparts to state that they "very often" drive within an hour of having at least one drink (Maryland - 7.3% and Wisconsin - 0%). The participants in the Wisconsin groups were more likely to say they "never" drive within an hour of drinking (Maryland - 22% and Wisconsin - 57.7%).
The participants believed that as women and men get older (out of their twenties) or have children, they tend to drink less and drink less often. Several participants mentioned that they drank far more when they were younger or before they were age 21. They also mentioned that drinking was the point of many gatherings in college.
The participants felt that women are more likely to plan ahead when drinking. Women also tend to be happy or get "sillier" when they drink, and men often are more aggressive. Most said that men drink more, drink more quickly, and have a higher tolerance for alcohol than women. Men tend to drink beer or hard liquor, and women drink either beer or sweet and "fruity" mixed drinks. Men are more likely to drink to get drunk and are more willing to drink and drive. Women said that younger men often brag about their drinking.
The women believed that men were much less willing to find an alternate way to get home from bars or parties when they have had too much to drink.
The participants discussed drinking in groups while in bars, at parties, or at sporting events. The most common alternate way home was to have a "designated driver." However, this often was not planned ahead of time. It was frequently the person who happened not to drink that night or the one who had the least to drink that night.
Some younger women talked about walking to bars from apartments in the campus areas. Only a handful of participants mentioned using taxis to get around after drinking.
D. General Impressions of Media
We asked the participants some general questions about their media preferences.
1. Memorable Media Messages
Without exception, the women mentioned the "Budweiser frogs and lizards" advertising campaign as a favorite. Others mentioned Miller Lite and Coors beers and the GAP clothing ads because they show young people at parties having fun.
Participants discussed several recent antismoking ads. The one mentioned most often was done by Victor Crawford, the ex-tobacco lobbyist who later died of cancer. The only anti-DWI PSAs discussed were ones depicting an adult or a child killed by a drunk driver. These were memorable to the participants because they were real stories about real people. The group members often talked about anti-DWI campaigns from their high-school years. These tended to be graphic, even gory, images from Driver's Training class or a wrecked car from a DWI crash that was in the parking lot of the school.
The participants paid more attention to television than other forms of media and the least attention to radio. Some participants mentioned that it was difficult to remember the radio spots just played when it came time to discuss them. Several groups mentioned that visual images created a more lasting impression. Most frequently those images were billboards or, less often, magazine ads. Billboards were the third most frequently mentioned venue for PSAs. Some women talked about PSAs in magazines, primarily those focused on "women's issues."
Many participants were aware of local newspaper and television stories of recent tragedies caused by drunk drivers. A few respondents mentioned that they read news, and therefore advertising, on the Internet. Those who used the Internet as a source of news felt that PSAs could be made flashy enough to catch their attention.
Printed materials such as fliers in the mail generally were not read by the participants. The groups had very little to say about other forms of print media. The Moderator's Guide included a question about any print media the participants received directly from their doctors, employers, police, insurers, or schools. We received virtually no response to this probe.
2. Media Approaches
Virtually all participants stated that women are more emotional than men and that emotional PSAs including children or death would be more effective with women. Specifically, they thought video PSAs would appeal better to the emotions. In general, the participants believed that women would be more likely than men to pay attention to PSAs.
The women in our study felt that PSAs with shocking and graphic content would receive more attention from the public. A few people felt very strongly that it was important for the PSAs to show graphically the consequences of drinking and driving. However, some of the mothers mentioned that they would not want the graphic PSAs on television while their children were watching.
Generally, participants preferred real-life situations with real people. The more the women could identify with people in the PSAs the better. For example, some of the Wisconsin groups mentioned they would like to see local PSAs about local tragedies.
The use of humor in PSAs appears to be a two-edged sword. It can be useful to catch the attention of the audience, but it also can trivialize the message.
The women appeared reluctant to discuss the influence that advertising has on their behaviors. Generally, they did not think that advertising had an effect on them.
E. Reactions to Media Presentations
All media presentations were readily understood by the participants, with the possible exception of Costs, which will be discussed below. The rating sheets completed for each PSA indicate that the PSAs made sense to them and that the messages were clear (see Appendix D).
The women were asked to rank the PSAs they viewed from one to four or five on two questions about their effectiveness: "Which presentations stand out the most in your mind?" and "Which presentations would be most likely to influence your future behavior?" Interestingly, the rankings were virtually the same for both questions on all three mediums.
The objective of this study was not to evaluate the effectiveness or impact of these specific media presentations. Rather, they were used as examples of different types of PSAs.
1. The Video PSAs
The rankings (Table 5) of the video presentations indicate that the participants viewed the Australian PSA as the most effective and that Jessica Angel and Funeral also were worthwhile. Although Costs was the only PSA they believed told them something they did not already know, they saw it as less effective than the first three. Zero Tolerance was ranked last by more participants than any other presentation of any medium.
The Australian PSA stood out from the others during the discussions. Although it was considered too long (90 seconds), the Australian dialect was difficult for some women to understand, and the video quality was relatively poor, the participants overwhelmingly thought it was an effective PSA. Most women in the groups were physically startled by the ending. Some descriptors they used were "scary," "graphic," and "intense." Some women mentioned that they could relate to it more because it was a fairly common setting, and the men were not out at night and falling-down drunk. They also were affected by the presence of the child in the truck.
Jessica Angel was part of the most commonly remembered anti-DWI campaign. In fact, in one group, this video was cited as a memorable PSA before we showed it. Participants found it effective because it depicted a young child and because it was a true story.
Funeral was seen by many as effective because it appealed to women's emotions and included children and families. Some African American women indicated that they identified more with it because the family was African American. However, White participants also found it appealing.
Costs were too quick and jumbled for most of the participants. Several women found the video visually overloaded. A few participants found it effective because it was informative about the various costs of a DWI conviction. However, two women familiar with Wisconsin's DWI process pointed out that the costs stated in the PSA are higher than local costs and, therefore, it would lose credibility with their friends in Wisconsin.
The women were virtually unanimous about Zero Tolerance. They found it: irritating, dull, laughable, and too preachy. Some participants noted that there was only one woman officer in the ad.
The video PSAs generated more discussion among the participants than the other mediums, regardless of the order of presentation. The radio PSAs stimulated the least discussion.
2. The Radio Spots
Overall, the participants did not believe radio PSAs were memorable, certainly not as memorable as television PSAs. Michael Delaschmit was ranked the most effective of the radio PSAs on both questions in TABLE 7. Warren G received an intermediate ranking for being memorable, and Trisha Yearwood and Lt. Sarah Johnson were ranked lower. However, the participants ranked Lt. Sarah Johnson second most likely to influence behavior. Notably, the mean rankings of the last three PSAs were very close.
Michael Delaschmit was the participants' favorite radio spot and was part of the most commonly remembered anti-DWI campaign. They felt the emotional appeal of Michael Delaschmit was similar to that of Jessica Angel (video PSA).
Lt. Sarah Johnson produced a mixed response. Some members disliked its authoritative tone. Others felt this was an attempt to scare them about drinking and driving. The younger women appeared to be more negative about the PSA than those in the focus groups of older women. However, other participants felt it was worthwhile because it informed them about extra police efforts in Maryland. A few mentioned that they would heed such a warning.
The Sarah Johnson PSA also triggered one of several discussions about the importance of strict enforcement of DWI laws. If the laws are not consistently enforced, those who are most likely to drink and drive often find out about the lax enforcement from their friends who have "gotten away with drinking and driving" or who have received only a mild punishment.
Few participants found the PSAs recorded by Warren G and Trisha Yearwood memorable. Several women pointed out that these particular entertainers have limited audiences. Many did not know who they were or disliked the style of music of the entertainers (rap and country).
In many cases, the participants could not remember specific radio PSAs during the discussion. This also indicates an overall lack of interest by the participants in the radio PSAs.
3. The Print Ads
The four print PSAs were ranked in a relatively even progression for both questions (see Table 9). Phillip's Killer was ranked as the most memorable and the most likely to change behavior. Friends Don't Let Friends ... was the second most effective PSA, and the Designated Driver PSAs were ranked third and fourth.
Phillip's Killer had emotional appeal for many of the women in the groups. The picture of the gravesite caught their attention. A few found it effective because they could identify with the group of friends shown at the grave. Using the word "killer" also was seen as attention-getting.
However, the younger women (both in the 18 to 20 year olds' focus groups and some younger women in the other groups) viewed the warning about underage drinking negatively. In several groups, women stated that the PSA would be better without this message. They thought that trying to stop underage people from drinking was unrealistic.
Friends Don't Let Friends ... did not receive a very enthusiastic response during the conversation about print PSAs. Some participants felt that this campaign and slogan were stale. Others found it worthwhile because it put a face on the statistics about DWI deaths. The focus groups of underage women did not discuss this PSA at all.
The Mothers Against Drunk Driving campaign to promote designated drivers was represented by two print PSAs with similar formats. Many women found these print PSAs clever or fun. Others were put off by the ads' cuteness and a perceived mixed message about the seriousness of drinking and driving. The Designated Driver - Policeman generated some negative feedback due to its authoritative approach.
The second MADD PSA, Designated Driver - Taxi, also received a mixed reaction. One group explicitly liked the message because it did not tell people that they could not go to bars or parties. Rather, it gave people an option for safe travel. Several of the participants in the Maryland groups also thought it was foolish to leave their car at a city bar (for fear of getting a ticket or worse). The most common negative comment was that it was unrealistic to think that young women had enough money to pay for a taxi.
Some participants suggested that the print PSAs could be displayed in bars, perhaps in restrooms, and in liquor stores.
4. Targeting of the PSAs
In several of the focus groups, the women mentioned that certain media presentations would be more effective with a particular segment of the population. They thought the Australian PSA would appeal more to men, and that Costs, Warren G, and Phillip's Killer would be appropriate for younger men. Conversely, Taxi would not affect men because they hate to admit that they cannot drive after drinking. Zero Tolerance was seen as ineffective with men because men feel they are immune to arrest.
Women would be more likely to pay attention to Funeral due to its emotional and family content. However, Funeral was hardly discussed by the focus groups of underage women. Trisha Yearwood also was seen as targeting women. The participants viewed Designative Driver - Taxi as more appropriate for older people who do not have to worry about the costs of a taxi.
Ethnicity and race did not appear to have much of an impact on why some PSAs were considered effective and others were not. A few African American women mentioned that they could identify more with Funeral because the family was African American. However, that PSA also was viewed favorably by whites. In discussing Funeral, two women felt that a wide range of people and families should be portrayed in this PSA, not just African American families.
Based on the rating data, the participants viewed most of the PSAs as intended for both genders and all age groups. Only the Australian PSA was viewed by a majority (60%) of the participants as targeting either gender. Almost half the participants thought Trisha Yearwood targeted women. The participants believed the other PSAs were appropriate for both genders. Most (84%) thought Warren G was aimed at younger people, and a slight majority thought Costs and Phillip's Killer were intended for the youngest age category. About four out of five thought the Australian PSA and Trisha Yearwood were intended for middle-aged audiences.
5. Appropriateness of PSAs for Other Mediums
The most common suggestion for changing the medium of a PSA was to present it as a video for television. Michael Delaschmit, Designated Driver - Taxi and Phillip's Killer all were mentioned as PSAs that would be better on video. The focus group participants believed that Phillip's Killer could be effective on video, but one group suggested presenting it without sound. The participants liked Jessica Angel and Funeral as videos but believed they also would work on the radio. Conversely, they thought Michael Delaschmit was okay on radio but would be better on television.
Many participants wanted to see a graphic representation of the expenses mentioned in Costs. Therefore, they thought it would work as a print ad. Some groups felt that Lt. Sarah Johnson also could work as a print PSA. The groups mentioned billboards several times. Phillip's Killer (a print ad) and Jessica Angel (a video) were cited as two examples of PSAs that would work as billboards.
The rating forms completed by the participants correspond to our qualitative findings. The majority did not think the PSAs would be more effective in another medium, with two exceptions. Most felt that Michael Delaschmit would be better in another medium, and about half believed Phillip's Killer would be. Those who thought the PSAs would be better in another medium saw television as a better alternative.
6. PSAs and Behavior Change
The PSAs mentioned most often as changing behaviors were Funeral, the Australian PSA and Jessica Angel (and others in this genre). Lt. Sarah Johnson imparted some basic information that would affect some women. The participants also felt that the two MADD print ads, Designated Driver - Taxi and Designated Driver - Policeman, might be effective if they were placed in bars and liquor stores. Others disagreed and did not believe Designated Driver - Policeman would change their behavior.
Many of the participants stated that advertising in general, and PSAs specifically, would not change their behavior. In discussing the Australian PSA, one woman said-
Officials planning public awareness campaigns need to be aware that many of these young women do not pay attention to PSAs or to many advertisements in general. The younger women were particularly likely to change the station or move on to other print materials, rather than pay attention to a PSA. This behavior was mentioned when discussing radio spots, but also applied to television. Overall, however, the women believed this trait was more common among men than women (also in Wiliszowski, Lacey, Jones, Marchetti, and Smith 1998). Others warned about "overkill" with PSA campaigns.
F. Emergent Themes
1. Using Celebrities in PSAs
Several focus groups had fairly extensive discussions about using celebrities in PSAs. This was stimulated by the radio PSAs featuring celebrities and by further probes. In general, the participants were quite negative about using celebrities to deliver the anti-DWI message. Much of the discussion focused on their lack of credibility in PSAs. Many thought that the celebrities were doing the PSAs "for the money" and positive publicity. The participants had a hard time relating to them due to their celebrity and incomes. The women in the Wisconsin groups were somewhat more skeptical than were those in Maryland. Common comments included the following:
An exception was made for celebrities who have first hand experience with an issue. An example cited several times was Carroll O'Connor's PSAs warning parents of the danger of drug use. Their acceptance of this message stems from a perception that he had first-hand knowledge of the pain caused by his son's death from an overdose. Overwhelmingly, the women preferred PSAs using real people and real situations to those using celebrities.
The positive aspect of using celebrities in PSAs was an ability to catch the public's attention. This was believed to be more relevant for children and youths than for adults. Choosing the right celebrity was seen as a critical issue. No one should be selected whose association with the message could be perceived as hypocritical.
2. Discussion About Changing the Environment
Two environmental issues emerged in the groups, although they were not specified in the Moderator's Guide. Four of the Madison focus groups discussed programs offering alternative ways home from bars. The programs mentioned most often were reduced-rate or free taxi rides home (see Stewart 1999), the local Women's Transit Authority, and free bus rides on New Year's Eve. Most of the women had not heard of the reduced-rate and free taxi programs but were interested in discussing them. This approach to reducing drinking and driving was viewed positively because it acknowledges the reality that people drink at bars but should not drive home.
The enforcement of drinking and driving laws was raised in several groups. Some of the participants believed that the laws were not being enforced, that the punishments were trivial, or that people ignored the sanctions. This situation can have a negative preventive effect because women often know people who had "gotten away with it." Similarly, Wiliszowski et al. (1998) found that focus group members did not find the police a serious threat to drunk drivers.
3. Summary of Findings
The participants' views of the differences between men and women regarding drinking and driving mirror those of society in general. They see men as more aggressive drivers who are willing to take more risks than women. They also felt that men drink more, are more likely to get drunk, and are more likely to drink and drive. Our focus groups indicate that women are more willing than men to "give up the keys" and take an alternate method of transportation while drinking. These findings reflect those in Stewart (1995).
Our study found that women believe they are more likely than men to pay attention to PSAs, although this appears to be less true of the younger women. This is corroborated by Morris' comparison study of men's and women's views of PSAs (1994). Stewart (1995) concludes that women are more likely than men to be influenced not to drink and drive. In addition, women understood a PSA regardless of its target population or the gender of its spokesperson (Morris 1994). However, Wiliszowski et al. (1998) found that messages targeted to the overall group of men and women aged 18 to 25 are as likely to be successful as ones targeting specific segments of that group.
The participants in our discussions believed that women were more likely than men to plan for drinking (e.g. planning for a "designated driver" or planning to take a taxi). Often, however, there was little planning. For example, the designated driver was frequently the person who had the least to drink at the end of the night (also in Stewart, 1999).
Participants in this study perceived that both men and women drink and drive less as they grow older as part of a natural transition. Having children of one's own also was viewed as a life event that led to less drinking. These findings coincide with those of Morris (1994) and Wiliszowski et al. (1998).
Some women felt strongly that people will continue to drink and that they will not stop driving after drinking based on a few anti-DWI PSAs. They also were not sure if they would remember anti-DWI messages when they were out drinking (also in Wiliszowski et al. 1998). Low and Associates (1998) found that PSAs alone would not change respondents' behavior. Rather, a combination of approaches was needed.
With so many advertising images bombarding them every day, the participants felt it would be very hard for a PSA to grab their attention. Television was the preferred medium, but they thought some print PSAs also could be used effectively, e.g., billboards. Although not commonly viewed as a medium for PSAs, Internet graphics with anti-DWI messages were mentioned by a few participants as a new venue for attention-grabbing PSAs.
The women in our focus groups believe that emotional appeals work best for women, which is consistent with other studies (Morris, 1994). Wiliszowski et al. also found that emotional PSAs were the most likely way to affect women, but men did not think PSAs would reach them (1998). Perhaps the best way to reach women emotionally is to include children in the PSA. This was especially true for the mothers in our focus groups.
Focus group studies have had inconsistent findings about the use of humor in anti-DWI PSAs. Low and Associates (1998) found that the use of humor generally was not a good idea. However, Morris (1994) found that humor appealed to males and was a way of gaining their attention. Our results were mixed: some women found humor appealing for a PSA message about drinking and driving, but others find it inappropriate.
Our findings concur with others that it is effective to show negative consequences of drunk driving in a shocking and graphic manner (Low, 1998; Wiliszowski et al. 1998). Many participants suggested that impaired driving PSAs be more graphic and shocking to get people's attention. The Australian PSA was the most talked about spot in our focus groups, and virtually all of the comments were positive. Low and Associates (1998) also found that the strength of the Australian PSAs (including the one we used) was its emotional appeal and shock value as it realistically portrayed the consequences of drinking and driving.
Messages perceived as authoritative were seen as counterproductive, especially by the underage women. Morris (1994) found this negative attitude toward authoritative messages primarily among males, but noted that it also occurred among younger female participants.
Participants in our focus groups did not believe that the use of celebrities in PSAs was effective. They said it was far more important for the PSA to be realistic, and to include real people. Other studies have found it very important for PSA campaigns to be simple and direct (Morris, 1994).
The phrases most commonly mentioned as keys to effective impaired driving PSAs are personal relevance, realistic, clear consequences, emotional connection and straightforward (also in Low, 1998; Morris, 1994; Stewart, 1995; Wiliszowski et al. 1998).