D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and top officials of four other Washington-area governments announced yesterday the formation of a regional task force to combat drunk driving, described as the first such effort in the country.
The regional group, called the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), will launch its first campaign next week with a radio, television and newspaper advertising blitz dubbed Project Graduation, aimed at the thousands of area high school and college students who will be attending graduation parties and proms in the coming weeks.
"Be A Friend for Life, Stop Your Friend From Driving Drunk," is the ad campaign's slogan.
"We want them to have a good time and enjoy themselves," said Barry. "But we don't want them to drink and drive."
Barry was joined at a news conference announcing the new task force by Montgomery County Executive Charles Gilchrist, Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening, Fairfax County Board Chairman John F. Herrity and a spokesman for Arlington County Board Chairman Ellen Bozman. The officials emphasized that drunk driving is a regional and national problem.
Diane Steed, the deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, praised the Washington area officials for their "pioneer effort."
She said that it is the first such regional program in the country.
"We've seen a lot of gains from Maryland and Virginia and the District in the last year" in curtailing drunk driving, said Steed, who joined the local officials at the news conference. "We think this is going to bolster that."
Steed also praised a Montgomery County businessmen's group led by Jerry Sachs, president of the Capital Centre, for playing a leading role in establishing the regional approach.
She said it represented the kind of private-sector initiative needed to combat such social problems.
Officials credited a smaller-scale Project Graduation progam, spearheaded by Sachs and other businessmen in Montgomery County, as being a major reason why the county had no alcohol-related traffic deaths during the graduation and prom season the last two years.
The success of Montgomery's Project Graduation is one example of converting a local program into a regionwide campaign, Sachs said.
"What we have tried to do is focus the attention of the entire population on 'Project Graduation' in the metropolitan area," Sachs said.
He said he hoped that "every youngster participating in graduation this spring will have been exposed to" the public service ads.
Sachs said individual jurisdictions will retain their own programs and WRAP will serve as a clearinghouse and as a point for information exchange.
A major advantage of the coordinated ad program is that television and radio stations and newspapers are expected to be more receptive to alloting free public service time or space to one campaign rather than a series of separate, local ones, he said.
He said Earle Palmer Brown and Associates, a Bethesda advertising agency, gave between $30,000 and $40,000 in services to develop the Project Graduation ads, and the American Association of Advertising Agencies has agreed to find other firms to develop additional ads at no cost to the regional group for the next three years.