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Reducing Alcohol-Impaired Driving: School-Based Programs

School-based programs to reduce alcohol-impaired driving include: instructional programs; peer organizations such as Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD); and social norming campaigns. Instructional programs can address the problems of drunk driving (DD) and riding with drunk drivers (RDD) alone, or have a broader focus on alcohol or other substance use. Peer organizations engage students in a variety of DD and RDD prevention activities. Social norming campaigns generally are ongoing, multiyear public information programs on college campuses that aim to reduce alcohol use by providing students with objective normative information regarding student alcohol consumption in order to reduce misperceptions and ultimately change their behavior.

Summary of Task Force Recommendations and Findings

The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends school-based instructional programs to reduce riding with alcohol-impaired drivers but found insufficient evidence to determine whether these programs reduce alcohol-impaired driving or alcohol-related crashes.

The Task Force finds insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of peer organizations or social norming campaigns in reducing alcohol-impaired driving because of the small number of studies.

Results from the Systematic Reviews

Instructional Programs

Nine studies qualified for the systematic review.

  • Self-reported drinking and driving: median change of –0.10 standard deviations (range: –0.22 to 0.04; 5 studies)
  • Self-reported riding with drinking drivers: median change of –0.18 standard deviations (range: –0.72 to –0.10; 4 studies)
  • Programs varied widely in program length, program content, and student involvement.

Peer Organizations

Two studies qualified for the systematic review.

  • Neither study found a significant effect on drunk driving or riding with drunk drivers, although one reported several other beneficial outcomes (2 studies).

Social Norming Campaigns

Two studies qualified for the systematic review.

  • Results of the studies reviewed suggest that social norming campaigns reduce driving after drinking among college students exposed to the messages. However, the studies used relatively weak before-and-after designs from which it was difficult to draw firm conclusions.

These results are based on systematic reviews of all available studies led by scientists from CDC’s Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention with input from a team of specialists in systematic review methods and experts in research, practice and policy related to reducing alcohol-impaired driving.

Supporting Materials


Elder RW, Nichols JL, Shults RA, et al. Effectiveness of school-based programs for reducing drinking and driving and driving and riding with drinking drivers: a systematic review. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 259 kB] Am J Prev Med 2005;28(5S):288-304.

Read other Community Guide publications about Motor Vehicle-Related Injury Prevention in our library.

*PDF includes all of the information available and will not be updated.


The findings and conclusions on this page are those of the Community Preventive Services Task Force and do not necessarily represent those of CDC. Task Force evidence-based recommendations are not mandates for compliance or spending. Instead, they provide information and options for decision makers and stakeholders to consider when determining which programs, services, and policies best meet the needs, preferences, available resources, and constraints of their constituents.

Sample Citation

The content of publications of the Guide to Community Preventive Services is in the public domain. Citation as to source, however, is appreciated. Sample citation: Guide to Community Preventive Services. Reducing alcohol-impaired driving: school-based programs. Last updated: MM/DD/YYYY.

Review completed: October 2003