Harrisburg – The State Police Commissioner, PLCB Chairman and PennDOT Executive Deputy Secretary joined with representatives of the John R. Elliott HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers® to kick off the program aimed at promoting safe and sober driving in the Commonwealth. The event was held at Red Robin, a corporate sponsor of the campaign in Pennsylvania. As part of the campaign, the owner of the restaurant, Lehigh Valley Restaurant Group, agreed to offer free soft drinks to designated drivers at all 20 of its franchise locations. Pennsylvania is the fifth state to officially adopt the campaign, which is active in states from Massachusetts to Kentucky.
"Every single injury and death caused by drunk driving is totally preventable by not driving under the influence," said State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan. "Don’t risk getting arrested for DUI or worse, for injuring or killing someone by getting behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated -- a person's driving ability can be impaired after only one drink and this impairment combined with driving can result in the unnecessary tragic loss of life."
Bill Elliott and his wife Muriel started the HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers in memory of their son, U.S. Navy Ensign John R. Elliott, who was killed in a collision with a drunk driver in July 2000. While at the U.S. Naval Academy, Ens. Elliott was selected as a Human Education Resource Officer (HERO) to counsel and mentor other members of his company and was named "the outstanding HERO" of his graduating class. Ens. Elliott was killed two months after graduating from the academy.
"We are proud to bring the HERO Campaign to Pennsylvania and to work with our partners to prevent drunken driving tragedies like the one that took the life of our son," said Bill Elliott, John’s father. "We want to spare other families from suffering a similar loss."
Multiple Pennsylvania agencies will promote the campaign and its message, "Be a HERO. Be a Designated Driver," through highway digital message boards, posters in participating bars and restaurants and thousands of car window decals distributed at upcoming State Police DUI checkpoints. "Drunk and drugged driving remains a major concern in Pennsylvania, and unfortunately this is completely preventable," PennDOT Executive Deputy Secretary Brad Mallory said. "Each time someone doesn’t get behind the wheel impaired, or they serve as a designated driver, they’re honoring the memory of people we’ve lost to impaired driving and helping to prevent further tragedies."
Establishments licensed to serve alcohol are encouraged to join Red Robin and serve free soft drinks to designated drivers in exchange for providing their friends and loved ones safe rides home.
"This is the time of year when people will gather with friends, colleagues and family to enjoy time together and celebrate the upcoming holidays. Often, those social events include alcohol," said PLCB Chairman Joseph E. Brion. "We encourage our licensees to provide a free beverage option for those who make what could be a life-saving decision to forgo alcohol. If you’re getting behind the wheel, one alcoholic drink is one alcoholic drink too many."
The HERO Campaign seeks to register a million designated drivers nationally through its website, www.herocampaign.org, and to make the use of designated drivers as automatic as wearing a seatbelt.
"The Lehigh Valley Restaurant Group is proud to be a corporate sponsor for the HERO Campaign in Pennsylvania," said Jim Ryan, CEO, Lehigh Valley Restaurant Group, Inc. "We applaud Bill and Muriel Elliott for their ongoing commitment to expand the HERO Campaign and create these partnerships with various Pennsylvania agencies and our Red Robin restaurants to make this campaign launch a success."
Over the past 13 years, the HERO Campaign has grown into a major initiative to prevent drunk driving. The Philadelphia Phillies, New York Giants, and New England Patriots all support the campaign by registering designated drivers and serving them free soft drinks at their stadiums.
For more information about the HERO Campaign, log on to www.herocampaign.org