By Veronica Hamlett
Wicked Local Walpole
WALPOLE, MA — Walpole police are asking bars and restaurants to ensure heroes step forward while drinking at local establishments.
The request is part of a national campaign Norfolk County is adopting to eliminate drinking and driving.
The HERO campaign, started by a New Jersey family who lost their son in a drunk driving accident, encourages servers to identity a designated driver in groups of patrons and then provide the driver with free water and soft drinks so they aren’t tempted to indulge in any alcohol.
Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey began the campaign earlier this month with a training session for bars and restaurants at Patriot Place in Foxboro.
Walpole police began a letter campaign last week, asking the town’s pubs to participate and display a decal in their window to let customers know designated driving is rewarded.
“The designated driver is a hero, because they are helping somebody get home and potentially saving somebody’s life,” Deputy Police Chief John Carmichael said.
Drunk driving isn’t necessarily a problem in Walpole, Carmichael said, but it does occur more than officers would like. Drunk driving arrests are one of the more frequent arrests made, and half the time the driver has only had three or four drinks and thought they were sober enough to hit the road.
Morrissey’s office said in a statement that 60 fatalities from drinking and driving accidents occurred in Norfolk County last year.
“One (drunk driver) is too many, and we had more than one a week,” Morrissey said.
With many bars and restaurants already supportive of town leaders’ push to eliminate underage drinking, Carmichael thinks many will be on board with the HERO campaign.
“I would say it might even help business,” he said. “The drinkers don’t have to be as concerned now, and the bar owner doesn’t have as much concern. You know you have that designated driver to make sure everybody gets home safely.”
Nancy Cowles, manager of British Beer Company on Rte. 1, said her staff keep a watchful eye over customers and are mindful of who walks out the door and into a car.
“What we personally do at my pub is, if we feel that anybody has had too much to drink we actually will call a cab and pay for their cab ride so they can leave their car safely,” Cowles said. “We put the cost on us to get them home safely.”
Participating in the HERO campaign would make sense for BBC, Cowles said.
“That’s not a bad idea at all,” she said. “Something like that would be easy enough for us to accommodate to. I see no reason for us not to take part in that. It’s always in our best interest and customers’ to make sure they’re able to get themselves home safely.”
The Raven’s Nest already offers designated drivers free coffee and soda, as well as dessert, owner Mark McAuliffe said.
“We just to make them feel comfortable when they’re there, because we know it’s not as fun for them as the others,” he said.
The pub also has deals with Sharon and Norwood-based taxi companies so cabs respond promptly for customers who can’t drive home.
“We all make sure they take a safe route home,” McAuliffe said.
Carmichael believes most restaurants have cab policies like The Raven’s Nest and BBC, and is hopeful they’ll have the same reaction to the HERO campaign too.
“I anticipate having a lot of good, positive responses,” he said. “Our hope is to maintain partnerships with the community and different businesses in town.”