TROY — It’s the time of year for making merry with friends and family, and Miami County Rotary Clubs are rolling out their annual Designated Driver campaign to celebrate those who help their loved ones get home safely.
The Designated Driver program was developed in 1998 by the Troy Rotary Club and has since expanded to include West Milton. As a no-charge community service, Troy and West Milton rotary clubs will be distributing thousands of blue-and-gold Designated Driver buttons through area restaurants, banks, gas stations, and state liquor stores.
“Before 1998, there were four or five alcohol-related deaths every year as far back as they could go,” said Troy Rotarian Dr. Michael Pope, who founded the event. “I found this program going on in Tennessee. They were just giving the buttons to the churches, but I said, ‘We’ve got to put the buttons where the alcohol is.’ The Troy liquor store alone gives away a thousand buttons a year for us.”
Statistics obtained by the Ohio Highway Patrol indicated that over the past 18 years, alcohol-related crashes have been greatly reduced throughout Miami County, with no alcohol-related deaths. Campaign representatives feel this reduction is due to the raised public awareness of the consequences of drinking and driving through the Designated Driver program.
“Since Dr. Pope started this program, there have been no deaths on the highway during holiday season due to alcohol,” confirmed Troy Rotarian Larry Heisey. “Since that time, we feel confident that the program works. It saves lives, and we hope everyone will use Designated Driver buttons during the holidays.”
Heisey will serve as the new head of the Designated Driver program, following the stepping down of Dr. Pope from the program’s duties.
“Dr. Pope’s done an excellent job of running the program,” Heisey said. “He asked me if I’d help several years ago. I was happy to do that, and it’s been very happy to work with him and see its benefits in the community.”
“This is my first year getting involved with the program, but it’s great to see things like this in the community,” said Vicky Kinsley-Henry, safe communities coordinator for Miami County Public Health. “The buttons are a great reminder for people around the holidays to remain vigilant and stay safe.”
“We’re putting more people out on patrol, but a lot of it just depends on people making responsible decisions,” said Chief Deputy Steve Lord. “During the holidays, people tend to indulge more. Across two decades, we really haven’t had a lot of tragedy due to alcohol, so the community’s really responded. We’re grateful for the program, we also see the benefit of it, and we hope it’ll allow everyone to have a safe holiday.”
“Last year, we had more buttons taken out of the bowls than we’d ever had before, so I think it’s really caught on now, and will continue moving forward,” Pope said.
The Troy and West Milton rotary clubs are part of Rotary International. Each club offers members an opportunity to support socioeconomic issues that have a local and international impact.
For more information, visit www.troyohiorotary.org, or visit Troy Rotary Club on Facebook.