The idea comes from Scandinavia. There, patrons of drinking establishments drop their keys in a glass, indicating to bartenders they are the "designated driver" for the evening and will not be drinking alcoholic beverages.
This practice is now the theme of a new campaign against drunk driving kicked off last Wednesday. Participating hotels and restaurants will offer free nonalcoholic drinks to designated drivers.
"One Washingtonian is lost in an alcohol-related crash every other day," says Gerard Murphy, president of the National Capital Area's Automotive Trade Association. "We want people to plan ahead and consciously designate a driver."
Rumors, a restaurant and bar at 19th and M streets NW, is one of the 25 participating establishments. "We are concerned about people leaving here drunk and then getting behind the wheel of a car," says Steve Woelfling, night manager at Rumors. "We have signed up 100 designated drivers so far, and these people receive free nonalcoholic drinks when they come in."
"We are not encouraging prohibition," Murphy says. "We are trying to make people aware that sober driving is everybody's responsibility."
Even people who arrive alone can receive free soft drinks if they're driving. "The Lone Ranger is certainly a consideration," Murphy says.
The campaign will continue through the beginning of December. For more information and the names of participating restaurants and bars, call: 670-1110.