MIAMI COUNTY — With Christmas parties and family holiday functions around the corner, local Rotary clubs kicked off their 14th annual Designated Driver campaign to encourage folks to not only buckle up, but also “button up” to make the roads safe this holiday.
The blue and gold Designated Driver buttons are now apart of the Miami County tradition to keep streets safe, not only all year round, but especially during the holidays.
On Tuesday, Dr. Michael Pope launched the Troy and West Milton Rotary Club’s “Designated Driver” button campaign along with Chief Deputy Dave Duchak from the Miami County Sheriff’s Office, Kari Boyle from Miami County Public Health, Miami County Prosecuting Attorney Tony Kendell and Ohio State Highway Patrol Piqua Post Commander Lt. Joe Gebhart during a kickoff at the Troy Country Club.
“This is 14 years of no alcohol related deaths over the holidays,” Dr. Pope said. “Everybody that we take the buttons to seem happy to be part of the program — just the whole community wraps around it.”
A team of volunteers have distributed the nearly 5,000 golden buttons to local bars, restaurants, banks, state liquor stores and drive-thrus who support the initiative.
“It’s so warming to go out to places. Like Kroger’s, when we went out there they said ‘We’ve been waiting on you to get here.’ Everywhere we do this they are so happy to help us, like the banks and the drive-thrus and restaurants, they are all happy to do this to help save lives.”
Pope started the campaign after reading about a similar program started by a Rotary Club in Tennessee. Dr. Pope then modified it to the Miami County area.
Saving lives and keeping people’s loved ones safe is what keeps Pope excited about the Designated Drive button program each year. Prior to the Rotary Club’s campaign, four to six drivers were involved in alcohol-related accidents or fatalities in Miami County.
Pope said nearly 1,000 Designated Driver buttons are distributed through the local state liquor stores. Pope said the store clerks shared how some patrons stop in just for the buttons to pass out among friends and family to spread the message during the holidays.
“They didn’t want to buy any liquor they wanted the buttons because they knew people who do drink and do have parties and they were going to make sure they had the Designated Driver buttons to help do the job,” Pope said. “It tells me one thing — that we are getting to the community. They are getting to understand how important it is to have a designated driver.”
OVIs on the rise in 2015
According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Miami County has reported 10 fatal crashes in 2015 with four of those fatalities being OVI related. Miami County also has reported 168 OVIs year-to-date compared to 140 total OVIs in 2014.
State statistics show the Thanksgiving holiday fatalities decreased state-wide this year.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol also reported few motorists state-wide were killed during the 2015 Thanksgiving holiday season than in previous years. Nine people were killed during the five day reporting period, from Wednesday, Nov. 25 until Sunday, Nov. 29. This is a decrease from the past three years when 23 were killed in 2014, 17 were killed in 2013, and 12 were killed in 2012.
Melanie Yingst can be reached at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @Troydailynews
Reach Melanie Yingst at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @Troydailynews