By Cody Willoughby
TROY — The season of merry holiday get-togethers is in full swing, and Rotary Clubs in Miami County want to celebrate those who help their family and friends get home safely.
The club’s annual “Designated Driver” button campaign kicked off on Tuesday, Dec. 12 at the Troy Country Club on Peters Road in Troy. Representatives from the Troy and West Milton Rotary clubs, the Miami County Sheriff’s Office, and the Ohio State Highway Patrol were present to support the launch.
“The whole event started in 1998,” said Troy Rotarian Dr. Michael Pope, who founded the event. “When I first started it, I did some research, and as far back as the records went, there were four to five alcohol-related deaths every Christmas and New Year’s season in Miami County. We got the idea of the ‘Designated Driver’ button program, and our Rotary Club tried it just to see what would happen. It was incredible how the community embraced the program.”
As a free-of-charge community service, Troy and West Milton Rotary clubs will be distributing thousands of “Designated Driver” buttons throughout the area, with availability at restaurants, banks, gas stations, and many other participating local businesses.
“Businesses all love to put the buttons out for us,” Pope said. “The whole community wants to get in on it each year, and that’s what makes the whole thing tick. The state liquor store even gives out about a thousand buttons every year. You buy a bottle of booze, you get a button.”
“Without a doubt, the primary objective of the program is to have no alcohol-related crashes and fatalities, and for people to enjoy the holidays with their family and friends,” said Sheriff Dave Duchak. “People are always going to consume alcohol, but it’s important to have a designated driver to get to and from their destination. Through a grant we receive, the sheriff’s office will be able to have extra deputies on patrol, and those who choose to drive under the influence will face arrest. We’re just encouraging people to enjoy the season as safely as they can.”
“During the holidays, you have a lot of people traveling, so traditionally, it can be pretty dangerous,” said Lt. Commander Joseph A. Gebhart, of the Piqua post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. “We’re asking people to be smart and do their part, and that means driving safe, driving sober, and buckling up.”
According to statistics obtained through the Ohio State Highway Patrol, alcohol-related crashes during the holiday season over the past 17 years have been greatly reduced throughout Miami County, with zero alcohol-related deaths on record. Campaign representatives feel these statistics reflect success in the program’s effectiveness in raising public awareness on the seriousness of drinking and driving during the holidays.
“I can’t speak highly enough of Dr. Pope, the Troy Rotary Club and all its members,” Duchak said. “They’ve spent a lot of time doing this over the years, and have done a wonderful job at getting the word out.”
The Troy and West Milton Rotary clubs are part of Rotary International. Each club offers members an opportunity to support socio/economic issues that have a local and international impact.
For more information, visit www.troyohiorotary.org, or visit Troy Rotary Club on Facebook.