The 300 Lives Initiative -- Questions and Answers



What are the goals of the 300 Lives Initiative?

The 300 Lives Initiative aims to reduce total crash deaths in New Mexico by 300 from the total of 2,257 deaths in 2001-2005 that past trends and population growth would predict.  Once in place, the Initiative's programs will save even more lives after 2005, over 100 per year.  

The total of 300 lives to be saved will include saving 269 lives through renewed strong progress against drunk driving and alcohol-related crash deaths, consistent with national goals to reduce DWI.  The remaining lives to be saved, totaling 31,  will be saved by programs to reduce deaths in crashes that do not involve alcohol.  

What are the national traffic safety goals upon which the 300 Lives Initiative for New Mexico is based?

Reducing US traffic deaths  National traffic safety leaders have called for major U.S. traffic safety progress in the next half-decade, and they have set a goal of reducing US annual crash deaths to 35,600 in 2005 -- down fourteen percent from the 41,471 death toll for 1998.  This goal has been adopted by the US Department of Transportation in its Promoting Safe Passage Into the 21st Century -- Strategic Plan 1998 for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their Healthy People 2010 process.  Healthy People 2010 goals have been endorsed by more than 350 national membership organizations, all State and Territorial health departments, and key national associations of State health officials working to advance health, which collectively comprise the Healthy People Consortium.

Reducing US DWI deaths  Part of the national goal is a reduction in alcohol-related crash deaths to under 11,000 per year by 2005, down 31% from the death toll of 15,936 for 1998.   This DWI reduction goal has powerful support as well, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Commission Against Drunk Driving, and the National Association of Governors' Highway Safety Representatives.  This goal has been adopted as well as by the US Department of Transportation in its Promoting Safe Passage Into the 21st Century -- Strategic Plan 1998 for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Goals for New Mexico consistent with these national ones were calculated by presuming the same percentage reductions for 1998-2005 for our State that the nation will need to achieve the national goals.  

What programs will achieve the goal of saving 300 Lives?

The 300 Lives Initiative will save 300 lives by straightforward, strong steps:

Can these ambitious goals really be achieved?

Yes, we can do this.  Look at our progress on total fatalities:

We can beat national goals on DWI, too.  Look at our prospects:

Why aren't more programs included?

There are lots of things one can do to promote traffic safety.  Unfortunately, not everything that seems good reaches large numbers of the drivers most likely to be in crashes in ways that change their behavior in dramatic ways.  For example, teaching kindergartners about alcohol's problems is a good thing to do, but it has no effect on bottom-line death and injury in any research.  And it shouldn't have any effect, if you think about it -- very few kindergartners die in alcohol-related crashes compared to other age groups, so even a 100% drop in their DWI death risk would mean little in the big picture, compared to the number of lives programs that could be saved by targeting other groups at greater risk.  Kindergartners do not drive drunk, they don't control others who do, and by the time they grow to driving age, the DWI messages they learned in kindergarten will not affect their behavior dramatically -- those messages were too short-term, and too far distant.  Similarly, aggressive traffic enforcement in areas far from where crash deaths occur can be very expensive and demanding and impressive, yet it would not be likely to have any effect on crash deaths.

The key to short-term progress in traffic safety is to do the "right things"-- those that are most effective at reducing bottom-line death and injury.  That's more important than "doing things right" - expanding and polishing programs high-visibility programs that have little bottom-line effect, no matter how impressive their scale and the energy of their promoters.  In short, success at reducing crash death and injury is determined as much by not doing the wrong things as by doing the right things well.   Focus, prioritizing, targeting, and evaluating are the keys.

Likewise, the way to get long-term progress in traffic safety is to get short-term progress for a long time.   There is little research that suggests that health and safety measures with no near-term effects at reducing death and injury yield long term effects nevertheless.

Accordingly, the 300 Lives Initiative prioritizes measures that research and research-based problem identification show would have the most dramatic effects on stopping death and injury.  The 300 Lives Initiative is not opposed to other traffic safety initiatives, of course.  

What are the costs and benefits of the 300 Lives Initiative, and how will we pay for it?

Costs for the initiative include salaries for new police officers, vehicles, startup expenses, costs of officers for enforcement operations targeting sales to intoxicated persons, publicity, and more.   These costs rise from $100,000 in 2002 to $6.8 million in 2005 -- $5.8 million of which is the cost of 100 new State Police officers, whose value for public safety would extend far beyond their traffic safety effectiveness.   Total costs would be $15.5 million over the five years, all of which can be paid for from federal highway safety funding awarded to New Mexico -- such as the $2.5 million per year that is transferred from highway construction to highway safety to compensate for New Mexico's weak repeat offender laws.  Alternatively, the funds can be partially funded from the General Fund and other state funds.

Benefits from 300 reduced deaths are calculated at $360 million in reduced monetary losses to New Mexico society for lost wages, medical costs, etc., and $599 million in reduced quality of life, according to methods of the US Department of Transportation.  The total benefit is $959 million in reduced losses, from an expenditure of $15.5 million, for an aggregate return on investment of 62 to 1.  This figure underestimates the real effectiveness in that it omits the very large benefits from reduced non-fatal crash injuries. 

Who supports the 300 Lives Initiative?

Among the supporters of the 300 Lives Initiative are:

The Albuquerque City Council
The DWI Resource Center
Many traffic safety activists from all over New Mexico
Many individual citizens from all over New Mexico


What happens if the 300 Lives Initiative is not pursued?

With current traffic safety death rates and projected population growth, New Mexico traffic deaths will rise from 435 in 2000 to 462 in 2005, totaling 2,256 for 2001-2005.  The Highway Department estimates that with its current safety efforts deaths will rise from 435 in 2000 to 442 in 2001, declining to 430 in 2005 -- a total of 2,184 deaths for the period.  With the 300 Lives Initiative in place, deaths will decline from 435 in 2000 to 364 in 2005, totaling 1,895 deaths -- a savings of 300 lives, including 94 fewer deaths among persons under age 25.   

If current traffic safety death rates and projected population growth continue, total economic loss of crash deaths would be $959 million greater for 2001-2005 without the 300 Lives Initiative  -- a cost of over $1,400 per New Mexico household.  

Whose lives will be saved?

Based on each county's proportion of alcohol-related and sober driving crash deaths for 1997-1999, the counties' shares of projected total crash deaths in New Mexico for 2001-2005 is shown, with the counties'  shares of the 300 Lives savings for the county and the percentage reduction for the county.  Since the National goals call for greatest progress in the category of alcohol-involved crashes in the coming years, counties with the most alcohol-related crashes make proportionately greater progress. 

County  Lives Saved with 300 Lives Initiative Projected Deaths Based on Trend % Savings
Bernalillo 52.0 364.7 14.2
Catron 1.5 9.9 14.9
Chaves 5.6 77.4 7.2
Cibola 8.6 67.6 12.8
Colfax 2.2 23.1 9.6
Curry 2.9 19.8 14.9
De Baca 0.8 16.4 4.9
Dona Ana 23.5 155.2 15.1
Eddy 6.5 49.5 13.2
Grant 5.3 47.8 11.0
Guadalupe 3.7 67.5 5.5
Harding 0.1 3.3 2.4
Hidalgo 1.7 37.8 4.6
Lea 5.7 47.8 11.9
Lincoln 5.4 52.7 10.2
Los Alamos 0.1 3.3 2.4
Luna 9.8 80.8 12.1
McKinley 26.3 168.4 15.6
Mora 2.3 9.9 23.1
Otero 5.4 52.7 10.2
Quay 3.3 49.4 6.6
Rio Arriba 22.2 119.0 18.6
Roosevelt 3.2 29.7 10.7
San Juan 28.4 153.7 18.4
San Miguel 9.6 57.8 16.6
Sandoval 12.1 92.4 13.1
Santa Fe 15.6 135.2 11.5
Sierra 3.2 29.7 10.7
Socorro 9.3 61.1 15.2
Taos 7.0 36.4 19.4
Torrance 2.1 34.6 6.0
Union 1.1 13.2 8.7
Valencia 13.7 89.2 15.3
Total 300.0 2257.0 13.3

Based on ages of persons killed in New Mexico alcohol-related and non-alcohol-related crashes in 1997-1999, projected total deaths based on trends and deaths prevented by the 300 Lives Initiative are:

Age group

 Lives Saved with 300 Lives Initiative Projected Deaths Based on trends % Savings
1-12 9 142 6.2
13-17 28 220 12.7
18-24 57 358 15.9
25-34 76 441 17.2
35-44 62 391 15.8
45-64 49 412 12.0
65 & over 19 293 6.6
Total 300 2257 13.3

What does the 300 Lives Initiative ask society to do to care better for crash victims and their families?

What about improving the lives of people injured but not killed in crashes?

Where can I see the the math behind the 300 Lives Initiative's goals and programs?

Here are the numbers, in black and white.  Check back here for further information later.









Projected deaths based on pop.








Highway Dept. planned death target








National Progress Goal








300 Lives Initiative Projection








Annual Lives Saved








Ann. Reduced Econ. Loss ($000ís)








Annual 300 Lives Initiative Costs ($)








And they say a picture is worth a thousand words:

For details and calculation methods, please email the DWI Resource Center.  

What can I do to support the 300 Lives Initiative?

Go here.  

Produced by the DWI Resource Center, April 04, 2001