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Reducing Binge Drinking: New Mexico's Driving While Intoxicated Prevention Campaign

In 2004, approximately 170,000 New Mexico adults reported binge drinking during the past month, and about 24,000 binge drinkers in the past month reported drinking in a bar or club during their most recent binge drinking episode.1 These findings were used to support the implementation of a prevention campaign against binge drinking and alcohol-impaired driving, including changes in New Mexico’s liquor control regulations. The Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) prevention campaign, launched in 2005, had two major components—reducing alcohol service to persons who are already intoxicated per New Mexico law; and implementing evidence-based strategies for reducing alcohol-impaired driving. The comprehensive campaign was a multi-agency effort, engaging state agencies and community organizations. The program focused on the six New Mexico counties with the highest numbers and/or rates of alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes.

The first component of the campaign involved a policy change. To take steps to reduce excessive drinking, New Mexico convened a task force in 2005 to evaluate the state liquor control regulations. Prior to 2006, the law stated that an establishment could lose its liquor license after five illegal sales and services violations in a one-year period. Illegal sales and service includes both sales to minors and sales to intoxicated persons (i.e., over-service). New Mexico’s definition of over-service is a finding that within 90 minutes of consuming his or her last drink at a bar or club, a patron has a blood alcohol content of 0.14 or higher (almost twice the legal blood alcohol level for driving). Though this law was on the books, no liquor licenses had ever been revoked in New Mexico based on over-service violations. In 2006, based on the recommendations of the task force, the alcohol beverage control agency changed the regulations from five violations in a one-year period to three violations in a one-year period for license revocation. This became known as the "three strikes" rule. Soon after the new rule was enacted, the alcohol beverage control law enforcement agency also increased their enforcement of over-service violations, sending undercover liquor control officers to bars and clubs to observe patrons and identify instances of over-service. As a result of these increased enforcement efforts, over-service citations increased by more than 260 percent, leading to the first liquor license revocations in New Mexico for this type of violation.

The second component involved implementing evidence-based strategies. New Mexico put into action strategies recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Force for reducing alcohol-impaired driving. Periods of increased DWI law enforcement were regularly scheduled, during which sobriety checkpoints were deployed around the state. A comprehensive media campaign was launched, warning drivers about this increased DWI law enforcement. The media campaign included TV ads, radio PSAs, billboards, and news reports. Sobriety checkpoints and supporting media activity continue to be priorities in New Mexico.

Between 2004-2005 and 2007-2008, New Mexico saw a 16 percent decrease in binge drinking intensity (the number of drinks consumed on the last binge drink occasion) in licensed premises such as bars and clubs, from 8.3 to 7.0 drinks per occasion. During this same time period, there was a 33 percent decrease in the prevalence of driving after binge drinking, from 8.7 percent to 5.9 percent. Ultimately, New Mexico saw a 39-percent decrease in their alcohol-impaired motor vehicle crash fatality rate between 2004 and 2008.2 The role of the New Mexico Department of Health and their CDC-funded alcohol epidemiologist in supporting this multi-agency effort have been featured by the CDC as part of their Vital Signs and Public Health Grand Round series.3

1 "Preventing Excessive Alcohol Use: What Public Health Can Do." CDC Public Health Grand Rounds.  (accessed March 13, 2013).

2 Bouchery EE, Harwood HJ, Sacks JJ, et al (2011). Economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in the United States, 2006. Am J Prev Med, 41(5):516–24.

3 "Drinking and Driving in the United States." CDC Vital Signs Town Hall Teleconference. 

Date Posted:
Organization Name: New Mexico Department of Health
Program Name: 

Driving While Intoxicated Prevention Program

1190 South St. Francis Drive
Santa Fe, NM 87502
United States
Healthy People 2020 Topic Area(s) addressed: 
Healthy People 2020 Objective(s) addressed: 
Healthy People 2020 overarching goal addressed: 
Attain high-quality, longer lives free of preventable disease, disability, injury, and premature death.
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