Motorists will see red in Montgomery County this holiday season -- red ribbons tied to car door handles, outside mirrors and antennas as part of a countywide campaign by county officials, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and retail beer and wine distributors to alert drivers to the risks of drinking and driving.
Representatives of the groups in Bethesda announced last week the start of what is now an annual and intensive campaign against drunk driving during the holidays. The county has designated this week, Dec. 13 through 19, as Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Week, to call attention to the efforts.
"We want to change the expression 'tie one on,' " said Virginia Bright, executive director of the Montgomery County Chapter of MADD. "Let's tie a red ribbon on this year."
Besides MADD, the campaign is sponsored by the Montgomery County Restaurant Association, the Hotel and Licensed Beverage Association and the Retail Beer and Wine Association.
Along with MADD's distribution of 200,000 streamers of red ribbon, which can be picked up free at all Giant Food Stores, Criswell Chevrolet and several county offices, police will be stepping up their patrols for drunk drivers in an effort to quell the likelihood of crime and accidents.
During the next two weeks, Montgomery County Police Chief Bernard D. Crooke Jr. said, sobriety checkpoints will be set up throughout the county.
Through November this year, 4,101 drunk drivers have been arrested by county police -- an increase of 6.5 percent over the same period last year, he said. "We're not out there to hurt people and ruin their holidays," Crooke said. "We're out there to keep them alive during the holidays."
Area taverns and hotels will also begin distributing buttons with the slogan "If You're Drinking, Who's Driving?" to waiters and waitresses to encourage customers to stop their celebrations before they are drunk.
The Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) is sponsoring through Jan. 2 a "Sober Ride" program, which provides free cab rides to anyone who drinks too much and cannot drive home safely. The program, funded by WRAP, Coors Beer, local taxi companies including Barwood Cab in Montgomery County, and various car dealerships around the Capital Beltway, last year provided 630 free rides to impaired drivers, 150 of whom lived in Montgomery County.
"Drunk drivers don't know jurisdictional boundaries," WRAP past president Jerry Sachs said, explaining the scope of the holiday program.
People who need the free taxi service can call (703) 578-HOME.