The Patriot Ledger reports that the Norwell police department has gotten all but two of the liquor license holders in town to agree to participate in its new designated driver program, which it hopes to launch before Thanksgiving.
Officer Tim O’Brien, who has spearheaded the effort, told the Ledger that nine of Norwell’s bars and restaurants have joined the program and will offer free non-alcoholic beverages to people who volunteer to be a group’s designated driver. “If someone designates themselves as the driver, they can’t have even a beer or a glass of wine,” O’Brien said.
Hingham police have run such a program for the last eight years and built up a 100 percent participation rate.
Most of Norwell’s liquor license holders are on Route 53, but at least one is on Route 123. The move to establish an official designated driver program comes as Norwell police report an increase in the number of drunken-driving arrests.
Police Chief Theodore Ross did not offer statistics but he said arrests are on the rise due to a few factors.
“One is the vigilance of citizens who have cell phone and report erratic drivers, cars that almost hit a pole or are speeding,” Ross said.
His officers have also stepped up enforcement, tapping grant funding aimed solely at catching drunken drivers.
Ross said the suspected drunken drivers caught in Norwell are not all coming from local bars and restaurants. Some are adults and underage drinkers who were at private parties.
O’Brien hopes to, before Thanksgiving, publicize the bars and restaurants that are participating in the designated driver program. Alcohol-related car crashes killed 108 people in Massachusetts in 2009, down from 148 in 2005, according to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.