Responsbility.org has dedicated 30 years to leading the fight to eliminate underage drinking and drunk driving.
At the beginning, the organization was supported by nine American distillers who to this day share a strong commitment to responsibility. The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) promotes making responsible decisions about any aspect of an alcoholic beverage.
In the past 30 years, they have seen significant improvements. Fatalities from drunk driving have declined 36% since 1991, and during that year, 80% of American teens consumed alcohol at least once in their lifetime. As of 2020, that number has dropped to 44%.
It’s safe to say that almost everyone has been affected by drunk driving in some aspect of their life. That is why organizations like Responsbility.org are crucial to recognize as they fight to promote smart decision-making concerning alcohol.
1. Responsibility.org marks its 30th Anniversary this year. What inspired the creation of the organization so many years ago?
America was facing an issue with irresponsible drinking, including high levels of teenage binge drinking and driving under the influence. The country needed a stronger culture of legal, responsible drinking.
Leading distillers saw that they were uniquely positioned to create solutions and to serve as conveners—bringing together perspectives from academia, law enforcement, government, non-profits, and more. Collaboration was key to attacking the problem from all angles.
2. Through the years, how have the initiatives changed?
We are continually refining our tools to keep up with the latest science and technology, whether that’s tools for improving the criminal justice system and getting impaired drivers the help they need or providing tools to bartenders so that they can help advance the mission of ending underage drinking.
Our free Computerized Assessment and Referral System (CARS) helps the criminal justice community screen DUI offenders for substance use disorders and a host of mental health issues. This ensures that they get the right treatments—not merely punishments or sentences—so that we can actually end recidivism. This type of system just would not have been possible to build in our early years.
3. What are the main programs offered for bartenders and bar owners?
The number one program is our “We Don’t Serve Teens” campaign. Many bartenders will be familiar with this, and we’re excited to say we’re going to be expanding it significantly in the near future.
This summer, we’re launching the “Safe Night” program, which will offer a full suite of tools and best practices so that bartenders and bar owners can learn proven strategies, and we can get more establishments on the same page across the community.
4. Are there any messages, activities, policies that remain the same over the years and that you find most successful?
Collaboration is central to our mission. We know we don’t have all the answers. So we work with experts in every field—education, law enforcement, mental health, government, and more—to make sure our programs are grounded in the best available research and practices.
5. What’s most important for bartenders to know about Responsibility.org?
“We want to help you—and we want to learn from you. This is a two-way conversation. We have resources for you to help you do your job more confidently and more responsibly. We also know that new challenges emerge every day. You’re the eyes and ears on the ground, and your feedback and perspective help us improve our programming,” adds Chris Swonger, President & CEO of Responsibility.org & the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS)
6. How has the organization evolved given recent events to include current to-go bar programs?
We have promoted our Virtual Bar and BAC calculator so that adults drinking at home can better understand their own limits and the content of what they are consuming. Responsible choices are important wherever you are consuming alcohol.
7. Responsible drinking includes carding minors, cutting off over-drinkers, and making sure people don’t drive drunk—which falls on the bartender. What can bar owners do to support their staff?
We recommended participating in our We Don’t Serve Teens campaign and watch for some exciting new resources coming out this summer.
8. What would the organization like to accomplish over the next 30 years?
The 30th Anniversary of Responsibility.org gives us a chance not only to celebrate the significant progress made in our first three decades but also to look toward the future. Our organization has a three-fold mission: to eliminate underage drinking, eliminate drunk driving, and work with others to end all impaired driving, and to empower adults to make a lifetime of responsible alcohol choices.