The new ACTION Community Health Center at 130 Water Street, Fitchburg, opens on Monday, January 8th.

With the holiday season upon us and the New Year about to begin, now is a great time to talk about the importance of the Designated Driver and how the campaign to promote the use of designated drivers has been good for everyone.

2018 will mark the 30th anniversary of the nationwide Designated Driver campaign, which had been created by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Center for Health Communication working with Hollywood’s creative community and major TV networks. Harvard had asked ABC, CBS, and NBC to air frequent public service announcements (PSAs) during prime time encouraging viewers to use designated drivers if they were going to be drinking at social get-togethers and sporting events. This was the first time in broadcast history that the three major networks produced and sponsored simultaneous campaigns with the same message. Harvard’s public relations activities further reinforced the campaign, generating extensive news coverage worth millions of dollars in network air time.

But what made the campaign truly groundbreaking was its use of what is now known in the entertainment industry as “product placement” – the inclusion of branded products and mentions about them as part of the scripted programming. In this case, it was the inclusion of designated driver mentions in the scripts of popular TV shows such as “Cheers”, “LA Law,” and “The Cosby Show.”

The delivery of short designated driver messages in the dialog spoken by popular actors and celebrities raised the visibility of the campaign significantly and positively anchored the concept of using designated drivers in the minds of viewers during the initial four-year period of the campaign. “Designated driver” has now become a household phrase known by virtually everyone.

As a result, a survey two years ago by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Nationwide Insurance revealed that 3 out of 4 respondents now use designated drivers. The reasons were simple and compelling – people like the idea of getting home safely and in one piece. The MADD survey reveals that 75% of the people who volunteer to be the designated driver do so because they want to get home safely, and 85% ride with a sober driver for the same reason.  Another major reason for being or using a designated driver was not wanting to end up in jail.

So this holiday season, make a pledge to use a designated driver if you’re going to be out celebrating – and then keep that pledge from now on. Better yet, volunteer to be the designated driver yourself. If, for some reason, you find yourself in a situation where a designated driver is not an option, here are some alternatives:

  • Call a responsible friend or family member
  • Get a cab
  • Request a ride from Uber, Lyft or another reputable service
  • Use public transportation if you’re in a group
  • Stay where you are if you’re at the home of a friend or family member

Whatever you do, getting behind the wheel is never an option if you’re impaired by drugs or alcohol. Remember – your family and friends – and everyone here at Community Health Connections – want you to be safe, happy, and healthy in the coming years.

Fitchburg Community Health Center

326 Nichols Road, Fitchburg, MA
978-878-8100

Gardner Community Health Center

175 Connors Street, Gardner, MA
978-878-8100

Leominster Community Health Center

14 Manning Avenue, Leominster, MA
978-878-8100

ACTION Health Services

326 Nichols Road, Fitchburg, MA
978-878-8100

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