By MADDY VITALE
They’re called “rolling billboards,” and they serve as a strong reminder that drunk driving kills and it is vital to have a designated driver. They are HERO-wrapped patrol cars.
The John R. Elliott HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers kicked off in Somers Point Wednesday afternoon, during one of the busiest travel days of the year, to unveil a newly HERO-wrapped Somers Point patrol car and a Northfield police car and to announce a new initiative partnering with local bars and taverns.
The ceremony included local police officers, municipal officials and Bill Elliott, chairman of the HERO Campaign, to unveil the vehicles.
“The fact that they want to have the HERO logo on their cars says a lot about what they think about their campaign and our son,” Elliott said prior to the ceremony held at the Somers Point beach. “On a very personal level, it’s very touching.”
Bill Elliott and his wife, Muriel, founded the HERO Campaign in memory of their son, John R. Elliott, a Navy ensign who was killed by a drunken driver in Salem County on July 22, 2000, just two months after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy.
The campaign continues to strive to prevent drunk driving by promoting the use of safe and responsible designated drivers.
Over the years, the Elliotts have delivered the message with events and programs to get the point across that drinking and driving should never happen.
“It’s important to have a designated driver and to not drink and drive. It is easy to have a ride home, with Uber and Lyft, and a friend doing a favor of driving you home,” Elliott emphasized. “There’s no excuse and no reason why people should be drinking and driving, and the consequences and the costs are way too high.”
In the ceremony, Elliot and officers from Somers Point and Northfield lifted the sheets on the patrol vehicles to present the rolling billboards.
Somers Point Police Chief Robert Somers spoke of the importance of the HERO Campaign and of his feelings about the department’s first HERO-wrapped patrol vehicle.
“We are a big supporter of the program. We believe in it wholeheartedly,” he said. “We’ve always been a partner and we finally had the opportunity to get an extra car we were able to wrap and we took that opportunity.”
Somers emphasized that extra DWI patrols would be on throughout the weekend in Somers Point.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), annually 1,200 people die between Thanksgiving and New Year’s as a result of drunk driving, and 25,000 are injured in traffic accidents caused by alcohol.
Somers Point and Northfield aren’t the only police departments to receive wrapped vehicles this week.
On Friday, a HERO-wrapped Avalon Police Department patrol vehicle will be unveiled in a ceremony at Veterans Plaza, located at 21st Street and Dune Drive.
“This HERO Campaign-wrapped police vehicle will be proudly patrolling the streets of Avalon in honor of Ensign John R. Elliott, to remind everyone of the importance of being, or using a responsible designated driver,” Avalon Police Chief Jeffrey R. Christopher said in a HERO campaign news release.
The three new HERO-wrapped patrol cars now join a fleet of 24 in other police departments.
The other municipalities throughout southern New Jersey include Atlantic City, Egg Harbor Twp. (police SUV and EMS Humvee), Evesham Twp., Galloway, Linwood, Little Egg Harbor Twp., Lower Twp., Margate, Middle Twp., North Wildwood, Ocean City, Longport, Sea Girt, Sea Isle City, Pleasantville, Ventnor and Vineland.
A Stockton University HERO Security Patrol Vehicle was unveiled in October. The Piscataway police department utilizes a HERO-wrapped highway safety trailer. Each of these vehicles has been wrapped with the HERO Campaign logo and safety message, “Be a HERO. Be a Designated Driver.”
Also, part of the Thanksgiving holiday drunk driving prevention campaign was a new initiative. The HERO Campaign is partnering with local shore bars for a Thanksgiving Bar & Tavern initiative.
The HERO Campaign and area bar owners began teaming up Wednesday with a way to say thank you to patrons who choose not to drink and drive.
Drivers who leave their cars parked overnight at participating establishments will find “HERO Thank You” gift certificates on their windshields the next morning.
Participating Somers Point bars and taverns include:
- Anchorage Tavern Restaurant
- Charlie’s Bar & Restaurant
- The Crab Trap
- Gregory’s Restaurant & Bar
- Josie Kelly’s Public House
- Windjammer Cafe Bar Grille
Participating Avalon bars and taverns include:
- Princeton Bar & Grill and Circle Tavern
- Rock n‘ Chair
- Whitebrier Restaurant
- Concord Cafe
- Avalon Yacht Club
- ICONA Resorts
“Thanksgiving Eve begins the holiday season when good times often include alcoholic beverages. This simple reward program emphasizes the important role of designated drivers in making sure everyone arrives home safely,” Elliott said. “In the spirit of the season of gratitude, we are saying ‘thank you’ to those who choose not to drink and drive.”
For more information about the HERO Campaign, visit herocampaign.org.