How do you keep drunk drivers off the road? Give ’em a ride home in a limo
Michael Rothschild of the University of Wisconsin School of Business has developed a creative nudge to reduce drunk driving using limousines. He came up with the idea, which is now an actual program in Wisconsin, after spending a lot of time in bars talking to young men.
For the past few years I’ve been working on a project in Wisconsin to reduce alcohol impaired driving. In our project, Road Crew, we work with small rural communities to help them set up ride programs for people who are too drunk to drive. Communities buy used luxury cars (generally limousines), pick up people at home so they never can drive drunk, take them to the first bar, between bars and then drive them home. They pay $15-20 for the evening, and the programs are financially self-sustaining by the end of the first year. Road Crew is paternalistic in that the communities have behavior goals for the citizens, but also libertarian in that people have free choice to ride with us or not. We try to give them the best possible choice, so that they will want to select us. Drive drunk and risk a citation, or ride in style in a limo.
Road Crew, advertised in the poster above, is still a small project. It operates in just six rural counties reaching less than 2 percent of the state’s population. Thus far, it has given more than 100,000 rides. Rothschild has written a paper based on a 2002-2003 pilot test, projecting a “17 percent decline in alcohol-related crashes in the first year, no increase in drinking behavior, and large savings between the reactive cost of cleaning up after a crash and the proactive cost of avoiding a crash.”
Using data taken over the life of the program, Rothschild estimates that the Road Crew project has stopped about 140 alcohol related crashes and six alcohol related fatalities. Based on the average cost associated with an alcohol related crash (about $231,000), and the cost of avoiding a crash using Road Crew (about $6,200), Rothschild says the numbers show that it is 37 times more expensive to incur a crash than it is to avoid one. Road Crew, in other words, has saved the state of Wisconsin approximately $31 million.
You can learn more about road crew at http://www.roadcrewonline.org. Watch a 5-minute clip (via Real Player) from Wisconsin Public Television here. Rothschild is interested in what folks think of the idea, as are we.
Addendum: You can email Rothschild at firstname.lastname@example.org.