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Minnesota DWI Prevention: The Prevention Collaborative

In 1996, a group of seven private and public colleges in the Twin Cities formed a collaborative with the goal of achieving a quantifiable reduction in the number of students reporting impaired driving (Hellstrom, 2003). This DWI prevention campaign, which was funded by a three-year grant from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (Office of Traffic Safety), used the social norms approach to communicate the fact that the clear majority of students were making safe and healthy choices about drinking and driving. The Collaborative achieved a 13% reduction in student-reported DWI over the course of the project.

Many of the methods employed to communicate the very simple normative message—"Most students prevent DWI"—were very traditional: posters, table tents, stickers, etc. In the third year of the project, specific data about the reduced incidence of DWI were also incorporated into the media ("That's and 18% reduction. Way to go!"), as were specific tips for preventing DWI, such as walking home, calling a cab, and using a designated driver.

Interestingly, outcome data also showed significant reductions in other measures as well.
Specifically, there was:

  • A 20% reduction in the incidence of heavy episodic drinking
  • A 32% reduction in public misconduct resulting from AOD use, and
  • A 13% reduction in underage drinking

These reductions occurred even though they were not stated objectives of the project and, more importantly, no messages were disseminated regarding these particular issues. It is interesting to note that "the more active the campus was with the initiative, the greater their gains. For example, one campus that infused [normative] messages into new student orientation, parent orientation, RA trainings, etc. experienced a 40% reduction in DWI, whereas a school that merely posted the materials experienced an 8% decrease" (The Peer Educator, p. 9).


Hellstrom, David. "Reducing Risk: The Prevention Collaborative's Positive Social Norming Campaign." Conference presentation at the National Conference on the Social Norms Model, July 17, 2003, Boston, MA.

"Collaboration and Social Norms: The Key to Reducing Impaired Driving Among College Students in Minneapolis/St. Paul." The Peer Educator, October 2002, Vol. 25, No.3.

**Portions of the information presented on this page were originally prepared by Michael Haines and Richard Rice and are printed here with their permission.