Hingham Designated Driver program gets perfect score

Mary Ford

Hingham Police do not mind if they sound like a broken record – better that than broken lives.

This is the fourth year that the Hingham Police Department’s Designated Driver program has gone year round. Originally, the program ran from Thanksgiving through the first weekend after New Year’s.

And for second year in a row, all 21 – which is 100 percent – of the town’s establishments that serve alcohol are participating, Sgt. Steven Dearth said. Participating establishments have the opportunity to renew their commitment each year before Thanksgiving.

The program, which is in its seventh year, is offered in cooperation with the Plymouth County District Attorney’s Office.

Participating establishments provide the designated driver with free non-alcoholic beverages. The designated driver should identify himself or herself to the server before the start of drinking, not at the end of the night.

Police are providing decals for the participating restaurants and bars that can be put on the doors, by the pay phones, and even on the mirrors in the restrooms as a friendly reminder about the importance of having a designated driver.

The way the Designated Driver program works is those attending either a public or private function ensure that they have a licensed driver who drinks only non-alcoholic beverages for the evening. Participating establishments provide the designated driver with free non-alcoholic beverages.

“The fact that everyone of these full liquor license holders agreed to renew their participation, especially in this economy, speaks so highly of these businesses,” Dearth said. ”It sends a clear message-we want to help.” 

There is no cost to the businesses other than providing the free non-alcoholic beverages. The promotional materials, such as the window stickers announcing that the business participates in the program, are distributed free of charge.

David Littlefield, owner of Salsa’s, said his restaurant has participated in the program since it was enacted. He said the program is really about public safety and license holders have a collective responsibility to keep their customers safe.

“This is a collective effort that is a win-win for everybody,” Littlefield said.

The program is also an excellent way to establish open communication between restaurants and the police department, rather than just responding after an incident. The program also sends the message to the community that the businesses and the police are working together to ensure everyone is safe and plans ahead, Dearth said.

“We are not anti-alcohol, this program is not about limiting alcohol consumption by adults, it’s about sending a simple but effective message-plan ahead,” Dearth said. “I hope the visibility of this program alone stimulates discussion about planning ahead, the risks of drinking and driving and personal responsibility.

“With such an alarming increase in the amount of people arrested so far (47 percent increase over last year) for Operating Under the Influence, this type of program needs to continue,” Dearth said. ”The best way to save lives is to prevent a drunk driver from getting behind the wheel in the first place.”

The following Hingham businesses are participating in the 2009-2010 designated driver program:

Asian C, Bertucci’s, Black Rock Golf Club, Burtons Grille, Chili’s Grille & Bar, Caffé Tosca, Jack’s Café, Muang Thai, Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pub, Nino’s Steak & Chop House, The Ocean Kai, Rustic Kitchen, Salsa’s Restaurant, Scarlet Oak Tavern, The Snug, South Shore Country Club, South Shore Sports Center, The Square Café, Stars on Hingham Harbor, Tosca, and the Liberty Grille.