Project Safer helps people drink responsibly this holiday season

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the major holidays are right around the corner. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s are wonderful holidays to celebrate with friends and family. Many celebrate these holidays with alcohol consumption in their homes and in bars and restaurants across America. The eggnog is sometimes too hard to resist.

While I am all for people enjoying their holiday cheer and ugly sweater parties, I am concerned about those who choose to drink and drive. It’s not just their lives they put on the line, but the lives of innocent people on the road.

Some people act responsibly and call a cab or friend for a ride, or a friend agrees to be the designated driver.

According to the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 40 percent of traffic-related deaths involve drunk drivers over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

That’s a 12 percent spike compared to the rest of December, which totals approximately 400 deaths nationally in just two weeks.

These statistics are enough to make me want to stay home until well after Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The price of getting a ticket for driving under the influence is expensive. The California Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs estimates the overcall costs of a DUI at a staggering $6641.

Ventura County estimates a cost of $10,000, including increased insurance rates, loss of work while in jail and other factors. I don’t have that much cash lying around to give away because I had one drink too many.

I have been the DD on more than one occasion and I know it’s not an easy job. Staying up late while your friends’ speech begins to need captions is always entertaining.

Then the task of getting your drunken friends from one place to another without ruining the interior of your car can prove to be pretty tricky.

The difficult job of returning your entire group of friends home safe and in one piece deserves to be rewarded. It’s usually a thankless job that no one thinks twice about.

That’s where Project SAFER comes in. Project SAFER is a nonprofit organization sponsored by the Ventura Department of Behavioral Health. They run a campaign called, “Be the DD and win.”

The Prize Posse, a group of volunteers and interns, go to local bars and restaurants in Thousand Oaks and Ventura once a month. They search for designated drivers and enter them in a raffle for a prize.

Finally there is a tangible reward for being the sober one. Not only are lives saved, but designated drivers can walk away with a great gift that they can use later.

The campaign is all about awareness. Enjoying your holiday is fine as long as you are responsible and have considered a safe way home.

Bringing your designated driver out with you in Ventura County is now worth it for both you and the DD.

The Prize Posse will be out in Thousand Oaks visiting your favorite local bars on Friday, Dec. 14. I challenge you to be a safe drinker and bring your designated driver with you. They’ll have the chance to win an awesome prize.

Especially over the holidays, I urge you to consider how you’ll be getting home after drinking.

I know we all make mistakes in our life, but I hope this is a mistake you won’t encounter firsthand. It is costly, with the potential to be deadly. Next time you are out, bring your DD, get home safely and you’ll both win.

I wish you a safe and happy holiday season.


Jeanette Zimmerman
Staff Writer
Published Nov. 28, 2012