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South Shore towns combine designated driver campaigns

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  December 24, 2013 01:37 PM

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Information courtesy of Hingham Police

Traffic safety statistics from 2008 through 2012 showing fatalities involving drivers with blood alcohol content higher than .08 percent.

South Shore communities are combining efforts to reduce drunk driving with a districtwide designated driver program.

Started in Hingham a decade ago, the program seeks to partner with local restaurants and bars, encouraging them to give the designated driver free non alcoholic beverages and reminding the establishments to serve responsibly.

“The best way to reduce drunk driving is to keep intoxicated persons from operating a vehicle,” organizers said in a release.

The program has grown in pieces over the last decade, starting in Hingham after a serious Thanksgiving night crash in the town in 2002.

Though the driver involved in the crash wasn’t coming from a Hingham restaurant, police said they started looking for ways to be proactive around the holidays.

The 2003 holiday season marked the first designated driver program for the town, with half of local businesses participating in the campaign. By 2005, every Hingham business was a participant, and the effort had become a year-round event.

The Plymouth County District Attorney’s office became involved in 2006, using money received from drunk driving forfeitures to provide magnets, stickers, and brochures.

Norwell Police came on board in 2010, followed by Rockland in 2011. As Marshfield joined in 2013, all four communities have come together with the District Attorney to make the program regionwide.

“The four communities together bring a total of over 70 establishments participating in the program and serve over 77,000 residents,” organizers said.

Police are optimistic about the expansion of the program, as the existing program has already reduced incidents of drunk driving, they said.

According to the release, 19 alcohol fatalities occurred in 2008 in Plymouth County. By 2012, that number had gone down to 12.

In all 14 Massachusetts counties, only Dukes, Middlesex, Plymouth, and Worcester had a decrease in drunk driving fatalities in the same time period, with Plymouth having the largest percentage decrease.

Yet there is still work to be done. Police said 56 people have been killed cumulatively in the last five years in Plymouth County due to alcohol-related crashes.

Continued enforcement and awareness campaigns are the answer, police said, and over time, the hope is the program reinforces the use of designated drivers, keeps the subject of drunk driving in the forefront of the public’s mind, and develops a relationship between restaurants and police before an incident occurs.

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