By Michael Hill
South Jersey leaders say they see a difference since they announced Evesham Saving Lives in October 2015. It’s a partnership in which donations pay for Uber and “Be My Designated Driver” rides home from 9 at night to 2 in the morning for residents of Evesham and Voorhees.
The program has been extended through this September. Police say in its first three months, Evesham Saving Lives led to an 83 percent drop in the arrests of drivers leaving local establishments and a 55 percent drop in DUI arrests.
The mayor of Voorhees said, “The Evesham/Voorhees Saves Lives Program has been a great partnership between two adjoining communities. It helps keep our residents safe and encourages them to frequent participating restaurants in Evesham and Voorhees. If the program has saved one life, it has been a success.”
Attorney Jef Henninger says he noticed a drop in DUI cases from town to town and attributes it the ride-hailing apps.
“I think younger people, they didn’t start out, for most of them under 30, a lot of them adopt this technology. And some of the very people, they’re becoming drinking age while Uber is a really big thing, as opposed to older people that have to adopt it and get used to it,” Henninger said.
“People want to do the right thing. People understand it’s a serious problem — over 10,000 are killed every year by drunk drivers — and it’s such an easy thing to prevent,” said Bill Elliott.
Elliott launched the John R. Elliott HERO Campaign after a drunk driver killed his Naval Academy graduate son in 2000. The campaign has an app for folks to sign up as designated drivers and get a free soft drink from participating bars and establishments.
“And we don’t think the word HERO is overstated. If you give someone a ride home you’re preventing them from possibly hurting themselves and somebody else. Our son was killed by a person who had been arrested by police, released to a friend who didn’t take him home, put him back behind the wheel. That’s how important being a designated driver is to us,” Elliott said.
Elliott says the Be A HERO campaign has more than 200 establishments in New Jersey and Pennsylvania taking part in the program.
“This has saved a lot of lives and we’re full on board,” said Jeff Thomas.
Thomas is a fourth generation owner of Charlie’s, one of the first Be A HERO establishments. On Thanksgiving weekend, Charlie’s put flyers on 15 cars left in the parking lot, cars of drinkers who didn’t drive and instead get a ride home and who could come back for a free appetizer.
“Seven have come back and enjoyed the wings and said it was a great idea,” Thomas said.
“Our mission is to make sure having a designated driver is as automatic as wearing a seat belt,” Elliott said.
Be A HERO has partnerships with schools and colleges and the New England Patriots to recruit designated drivers and prevent tragedies.