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From Research to Policy: Lessons from a Community Guide Review on Alcohol-Impaired Driving Laws

Laws to reduce the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of drivers save lives. A new case study examines translating this evidence into policy. The case study, from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Guide to Community Preventive Services, examines the translation into policy of evidence on the effectiveness of laws to reduce the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of drivers. Published as part of a series of case studies in the June issue of the Annals of Epidemiology, this case study describes the Community Guide’s scientific processes and collaborative efforts that contributed to the passage of legislation that led to all 50 states adopting 0.08% BAC laws. It is estimated that these laws save 500 lives in the United States each year.

Lessons from the case study highlight the value for translating evidence into policy of:

  • Clearly outlining the relationships between health problems, interventions and outcomes
  • Systematically assessing and synthesizing the evidence
  • Using a credible group and rigorous process to assess the evidence
  • Having an impartial body make specific policy recommendations on the basis of the evidence
  • Being ready to capitalize on briefly opening policy windows
  • Undertaking personalized, targeted, and compelling dissemination of the evidence and recommendations
  • Engaging key partners and stakeholders throughout the production and dissemination of the evidence and recommendations
  • Involving multiple stakeholders in encouraging uptake and adherence of policy recommendations
  • Addressing sustainability 

The Community Guide is actively applying these lessons to enhance dissemination and translation into action of evidence on the effectiveness of policy interventions in other topic areas. These lessons also may benefit others aiming to bridge gaps between evidence and policy or working to promote health in their communities.

Mercer SL, Sleet DA, Elder RA, Cole KH, RA Shults, Nichols JL. Translating evidence into policy: lessons learned from the case of lowering the legal blood alcohol limit for drivers. Annals of Epidemiology 2010;20(6):412-20.

Visit Reducing Alcohol-Impaired Driving: 0.08% Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Laws to read more about this recommendation and related findings. You can learn more about other Community Guide systematic reviews, including additional reviews specific to motor vehicle-related injury prevention by visiting Community Guide topics.