Border Binge-Drinking Reduction


The Border-Binge Drinking Reduction program is a multi-component program that combines communication, enforcement, and policy strategies to reduce underage drinking and binge drinking in border towns. It aims to prevent U.S. youth under 21 years old from entering another country that has a lower legal drinking age (i.e., Mexico) to gain commercial access to alcohol.


To reduce commercial access to alcohol in Mexico among underage youth in the United States

Typical Elements

  • Anonymous blood alcohol concentration (BAC) breath test surveys of youths crossing the U.S.-Mexico border on foot or by car after a night of drinking. Checkpoints are often conducted from midnight to 4:00 a.m. on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday one week each month. See also Sobriety Checkpoints. Implementing this part of the program involves (Lange, Lauer, & Voas, 1999):
    • Creating a sampling plan: What are the general geographic locations for BAC breath test survey sites?
    • Selecting sites: What locations are likely to be safe for interviewers and drivers or walkers?
    • Recruiting participants: Which types of vehicles will be included or excluded (e.g., commercial vehicles, including pizza delivery vehicles, are normally excluded)?
    • Obtaining informed consent: How do you make known that participation is voluntary, and that participants will not be subject to legal or official action?
  • A strong media campaign that incorporates social marketing and media advocacy strategies such as (Romano et al., 2004; Voas, Tippetts, Johnson, Lange, & Baker, 2002):
    • Information from the BAC surveys to reframe the issue of underage drinking from an accepted norm to a health and safety issue
    • Leaflets, press conferences, and other public forums to educate the public
    • Multiple media outlets to highlight law enforcement operations at the border and gain public support for the police department to devote resources to deal with the cross-border drinking problem
  • A Binational Policy Council that includes law enforcement officials, government officials, bar owners, and community leaders to recommend and enact policy changes on both sides of the border and provide spokespeople for the media campaign described above. The Binational Policy Council (Romano et al., 2004; Voas et al., 2002):
    • Reminds bar owners of existing regulations (e.g., ID checks to prevent youth younger than the Mexican drinking age of 18 from entering bars, posted notices about the minimum drinking age) and announces enforcement of regulations via inspectors
    • Enacts regulations to eliminate undesirable alcohol promotional signs from the front of bar premises (e.g., “exotic dancers,” or “girls, girls, girls”)
    • Implements a designated driver program
    • Delivers responsible beverage training programs to bar wait staff
    • Introduces policies that eject unauthorized street vendors from the border area
    • Increases the visibility of police and private security guards on weekend nights
  • Enforcement of existing state and national laws and policies (e.g., checking IDs at border crossings and in bars in Tijuana, turning back unaccompanied minors at the border, requiring special permits for military personnel to cross the border) as well as those instituted by the Binational Policy Council (Romano et al., 2004; Voas et al.,  2002)


Underage youth (18–21 years old) crossing U.S.-Mexico border


Border binge drinking reduction efforts have been associated with reductions in the number of:

  • 16- to 20-year-old drivers who had been drinking alcohol and were involved in nighttime crashes (Voas et al., 2002)
  • Underage drinking pedestrians crossing the Mexico-U.S. border between midnight and 4:00 a.m. (Voas et al., 2002)
  • Americans getting arrested for alcohol-related violations in Tijuana (Romano et al., 2004)


Border Binge-Drinking Reduction Program


Athena Forum: Excellence in Prevention


Lange, J. B., Lauer, E. M., & Voas, R. B. (1999). A survey of the San Diego-Tijuana cross-border binging. Methods and analysis. Evaluation Review, 23(4), 378–398. 

Romano, E., Cano, S., Lauer, E., Jimenez, A., Voas, R. B., & Lange, J. E. (2004). Tijuana alcohol control policies: A response to cross-border high-risk drinking by young Americans. Prevention Science, 5(2), 127–134. 

Voas, R. B., Tippetts, A. S., Johnson, M. B., Lange, J. E., & Baker, J. (2002). Operation safe crossing: Using science within a community intervention. Addiction, 97(9), 1205–1214.