“MOST of Us Prevent Drinking and Driving” is the message being promoted by a Montana-based health promotion project. The Montana Social Norms Project, based at Montana State University, is actively working to reduce alcohol-related crashes among 18- to 34-year-olds in Montana through its MOST of Us Prevent Drinking and Driving Campaign.

The campaign consists of positive, science-based messages that are being broadcast and promoted across the state. Started in 1998 under the leadership of Al Goke, the Governor’s Representative for Highway Safety in the Traffic & Safety Bureau of the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), the campaign is completing its fifth year of funding from MDT. “We are pleased with the initial success of this project and even more excited about its potential to save lives,” said Goke.

The campaign has also started a new one-year partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as one of five impaired driving pilot projects in the nation. Statewide distribution of print and promotional items is supplementing a campaign of radio and TV ads. Based on a phone survey of 1,000 Montanans ages 21-34, the primary message of the campaign—”MOST of Us prevent drinking and driving”—is supported by the statistic that “Most Montana young adults—4 out of 5—don’t drink and drive.” These messages appear in TV and radio ads and are seen on more than 60,000 posters and promotional items. “We are trying to reach as many people as possible in Montana,” said Dr. Jeff Linkenbach, the director of the Montana Social Norms Project. “Our goal is to reduce the occurrence of impaired driving.”

Posters and promotional items such as pens, note pads, computer screensavers, calendars, and bandage dispensers are adorned with the “4 out of 5” statistic. The project intends to distribute them with the help of local business, health care, law enforcement and educational institutions. “Getting the MOST of Us message out through as many channels as possible is a proven effective way to make an impact on Montana lives,” said Dr. Linkenbach.

The project’s approach is grounded in social norms theory, which holds that people tend to misperceive, or over-exaggerate, the negative health behavior of their peers. Further, if people think harmful behavior is “normal,” they are more likely to engage in that type of behavior. Research conducted by the Montana Social Norms Project shows that young adults greatly misperceive the prevalence and acceptance of impaired driving and that MOST of Us Campaigns have increased protective factors among young adults with regard to drinking and driving.