Evaluation of a server intervention program for preventing drunk driving

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

As part of the national effort to reduce drunk driving, servers of alcohol are being held liable for their alcohol-serving behavior with increasing frequency. In response to these drunk driving prevention efforts, the Training for Intervention' Procedures by Servers of Alcohol (TIPS) program was developed to teach servers skills thought necessary for acceptable standards of practice for serving alcoholic beverages. The current study evaluated the potential of this program to aid in decreasing alcoholimpaired driving.

Subjects were 17 waiters, waitresses, and bartenders who were employed at two bars. After the baseline period, the servers completed successfully the 6-hour TIPS training course. Research assistants posing as regular patrons (i.e., 'pseudopatrons') visited two target bars throughout the course of the study. These pseudopatrons set the occasion for server intervention to occur by attempting to drink six alcoholic beverages in two hours. Naturalistic data were collected by having a partner with a hidden microphone record all interactions between the server and pseudopatron. The partner also noted any signs of intoxication exhibited by the pseudopatron.

The results revealed that servers who had received TIPS training initiated more interventions than untrained personnel. Moreover, pseudopatrons served by TIPS trained personnel had significantly lower blood-alcohol levels and exhibited fewer signs of intoxication than those served by untrained servers.

These results suggest that, if implemented on a large scale, the TIPS program has the potential to reduce drunk driving by helping to decrease the exit blood-alcohol levels of bar patrons. The need to investigate the maintenance of server intervention behavior is discussed and other suggestions for future research are presented.