Oklahoma Highway Safety Office: New Year’s Eve Campaign





The holiday season represents one of the deadliest periods of the year, as it relates to drunk driving. Recent data shows that nearly 30% of traffic deaths in December were a result of crashes involving a driver with a BAC (blood alcohol content) of 0.08% or higher.

New Year’s Eve presents an even more acute danger than other holiday activities, because it’s party time for so many people at a single point in time, often with alcohol involved. This concentrated hub of activity means that drunk driving can impact many more lives than just that of the drunk driver.

On average, five Oklahomans die each year in crashes during the New Year period, defined as the 30-hour period from 6 p.m. Dec. 31 to 11:59 p.m. Jan.1. In 2015 specifically, six died in crashes, of which 3 were drunk driving crashes.

With these factors in mind, the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office (OHSO) chose to run a media campaign to highlight the dangers presented by drunk driving over the New Year’s Eve holiday.


Because individual years can have higher or lower crash rates, OHSO uses multiyear averages to calculate historic crash rates and benchmark goals. From 2013-2015, the three most recent years with data available, Oklahoma experienced an average of 3.67 fatalities each year. Our objective for 2017:

  • Experience no more than 3 fatalities in the 30-hour New Year’s Eve period from 6 p.m. Dec. 31 to 11:59 p.m. Jan. 1.


The federal organization responsible for highway safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), produces a comprehensive guide of best practices, “Countermeasures That Work.” In this work, they discuss the value of media campaigns: “Mass media campaigns are an essential part of many deterrence and prevention countermeasures that depend on public knowledge to be effective.”[1]

We sought to understand what motivating factors might lead someone to make such a dangerous choice and develop a campaign designed to specifically influence their thought process. Research led us to two specific personas that we needed to communicate with.

“Oblivious Regulars,” a group of socially active drinkers who don’t understand that their own bad choices put them and others at risk of serious injury and death.

“Occasional Overindulgers,” a group that largely makes safe choices and finds alternative ways home, but does occasionally slip by making a rash decision to drink and drive.


In each audience, we knew that we needed to focus on male drivers, as they make up 85% of driver fatalities in alcohol-related crashes.

Our campaign focused on attracting target audiences to the message and educating them about the issue, so we chose to tactics that effectively communicate these types of messages.

  • Digital Video: We were able to target by demographic, geography, and lifestyle on premium websites and YouTube.
  • Social Media: The targeting capabilities allowed us the same targeting abilities as digital video with the addition of targeting by social habits, likes, and online activities.
  • Outdoor Advertising: This mass medium put our message exactly where the target would potentially make a poor choice.

For our “Oblivious Regulars,” messaging focused on the dangers that drunk driving presents, as shown in the “Door Knock” digital/social video spot. The messaging shows a law enforcement officer knocking on the door of a home to deliver a death notification, a sobering reminder of the potential consequences of drinking and driving.

For the “Occasional Overindulger” audience, messaging focused on how to protect yourself from drunk drivers on the road, as well as timely reminders to avoid making a poor snap choice after you’ve already been driving.

As the finale to the preventative messaging we had crafted, we knew we ultimately needed to give our at-risk populations an incentive to help take the safer choice of using a ride sharing service. To that end, we piloted an Uber code program that offered $10 off a ride during the New Year’s holiday period. This messaging offered a direct action that the audience could take to protect themselves, and the others on the road with them.


During the 30-hour New Year’s Eve period, not one person died in a car crash in Oklahoma, a benchmark that hadn’t been seen in a decade.