SPRINGFIELD, IL—With drunk driving fatalities in Illinois nearly tripling in the past year, the state's Department of Motor Vehicles announced Monday it will re-examine its "One For the Road" Driver Relaxation promotional campaign.
"Driving a car can be an incredibly stressful experience," DMV spokesperson Dale Pennington said. "That was the idea behind One For the Road—we felt it was important that motorists loosen up a bit before getting behind the wheel."
"It does seem, though," Pennington added, "that the program may still need some minor fine-tuning."
According to Pennington, the One For the Road program was based on a DMV study that revealed a positive correlation between alcohol consumption and driver confidence.
"We found that people who had consumed at least four beers or two mixed drinks before getting behind the wheel were twice as likely to believe they were in no danger of getting hurt or killed," Pennington said. "When operating a serious piece of machinery like a car, that's just the kind of confidence you need."
Among the DMV study's other findings: A majority of elderly respondents and female college freshmen reported being "more mellow" and "really tuned into the road" after just a single drink.
Launched last fall, the $5 million One For the Road campaign included talks by police officers at Illinois high schools encouraging kids to start "thinking about drinking," a statewide poster contest, and a series of print and television ads featuring the slogans, "Before You Hit the Road, Hit the Sauce," and "Unwind... To Survive!"
Since One For the Road began, some 2,300 DUI-related fatalities have occurred in Illinois, a 275 percent increase over the previous year.
"Perhaps we need to reconsider certain aspects of the program," said Bill Gerhardt, co-creator of One For the Road. "We need to ask ourselves, 'What parts of the program aren't working, and how can we fix them?'"
State safety experts have expressed concern over the possibility of One For the Road being cut.
"You get some alcoholic who leaves his snifter at home, and he can't even keep his hands on the wheel they're shaking so much. It's just not safe," said Hal Knauf, safety advisor for the Illinois Board of Transportation. "Get that guy his gin!"
Added Glenn Sturbert, an Illinois-licensed driver examination official: "Some of these 16-year-olds come in here so nervous and dry that I'm afraid to get in the car with them. Now, I myself can't sell them a little something to take the edge off—the DMV only has a Class B liquor license—but what's going on at home that the parental concern isn't there?"
Despite the program's suspension, many brochures are still available from the DMV offering information on "getting loose." "These materials are there so that no driver can ever claim ignorance as a reason for having driven in an unnecessarily tense state," Pennington said.
According to sources, One For the Road is not the only DMV program currently under fire. Also being investigated are the campaigns, "Smoke Up for Safety" and "Pack First!"