By Neal Simpson
At least a couple of times a night, the staff at the Tinker’s Son pub in Norwell pours a free soda for a customer who promises to stay sober and drive friends home at the end of the night.
The restaurant began rewarding its “designated drivers” a year ago at the urging of Norwell police, who got the idea from police in Hingham. Now Rockland is launching a similar program, bringing the total number of participating bars, restaurants and clubs on the South Shore to 50.
District Attorney Timothy Cruz, whose office provides marketing material for the program in all three towns, said he sees it as another way to reach people with a message about drunken driving. Every participating restaurant posts a blue sticker near the door advertising the program, and many bartenders and waitresses will ask large groups if they’ve designated a sober driver for the night.
“Prevention is a very difficult thing to measure, but I think awareness and a continued focus on awareness is a good thing,” Cruz said. “I think it will have a deterring effect.”
Hingham police began encouraging restaurants to offer free drinks to designated drivers during the holidays after a particularly bad crash on Route 3A in 2002. After several years, the initiative grew to include every business licensed to serve alcohol in town, and police decided to make it a year-round program.
The district attorney’s office got involved in 2006, offering to print marketing material, including pamphlets and stickers, for any police department in Plymouth County that wanted to launch its own program. But Sgt. Steven Dearth, head of Hingham’s traffic division, said other towns have been slow to join.
“I’m happy that these two are on board, but it has taken a while,” he said. “It’s a commitment of time, because obviously you need to meet with these restaurants and then you need to keep in touch with them.”
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