Over the last 10 years, Plymouth County's Designated Driver Program has, through a cooperative effort with local police departments and businesses, raised awareness about the dangers of drunk driving and offered an incentive for people not to get behind the wheel intoxicated.
"Something terrible and tragic can happen," Plymouth DA Timothy Cruz said Wednesday. "I believe [the program] has made a difference."
Cruz spoke at the
Hingham Police Department, where he and several local police chiefs gathered to talk about the success of the program over the last decade and encourage even more participation.
"This is one of those issues that is very preventable," said Rockland Chief John Llewellyn, whose wife lost a brother to a drunk driver.
Currently, Hingham, Rockland, Marshfield and Norwell participate. Cruz said he is always working to bring on board more communities, and that it's just a matter of time before the program expands again.
Hingham began its Designated Driver Program during the 2003 holiday season. Half of alcohol-serving businesses participated that year. Two years later it became a year-round program and participation grew to 100 percent.
In 2006, Hingham partnered with the DA's office, which provides all program materials, such as magnets, stickers and brochures. It is a voluntary program for businesses, which provide non-alcohol drinks to designated drivers during their visit to the establishment.
Direct effects of the program are difficult to measure because it focuses on prevention, Sgt. Steven Dearth said. But numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicate a significant drop in annual alcohol-related driving fatalities in Plymouth County.
There were 19 such fatalities in 2008, and 12 each in 2011 and 2012. The county's fatalities per 100,000 of population dropped during that time period from 3.87 to 2.40.
Among the four communities, more than 70 businesses are participating this year, covering a population of 77,000 residents.
The materials given to businesses are paid for with forfeiture funds from vehicles seized from repeat drunk drivers under Melanie's Law. The law was passed after the death in 2003 of Melanie Powell, who was hit by a drunk driver in Marshfield.
Melanie's grandfather Ron Bersani joined the press conference Wednesday, saying that Melanie wold be proud and happy about the effort being made to combat drunk driving.
"Drunk driving is like a pebble in a pond," Bersani said. "The ripples go out and out and out."