(LOS ANGELES, Aug. 20, 2009) — Beginning Saturday night at the NASCAR event, the Automobile Club of Southern California will be participating in the Toyota Speedway at Irwindale and the California Highway Patrol’s Designated Driver Public Awareness Program. The program seeks to educate Speedway guests about the dangers of drinking and driving and to recognize and reward those who choose not to drink in order to safely drive others home.
Each Saturday night, the Auto Club, CHP and the Speedway will encourage race fans of legal drinking age who are attending the races with a group of at least three adults to volunteer to serve as their group’s designated driver and abstain from drinking alcohol. In return, each designated driver will get a unique wrist band and receive a coupon that can be redeemed at a Speedway concession stand for up to three non-alcoholic beverages (soft drinks or coffee). Drivers sign up to be a designated driver at the Auto Club booth near the Speedway’s main spectator entrance and receive the wristband at that time.
The partnership began earlier this year when CHP launched Designated Driver public awareness seminars for local community college students at the Speedway – an ongoing program that includes participation of drivers competing in the Auto Club Late Model Series at the track. At the end of each seminar, participants receive a tour of the pit area by a NASCAR official and are invited to that evening’s races as guests of the Speedway. Irwindale Concessions at the Speedway is also donating the non-alcoholic beverages for designated drivers.
“This program is a true partnership between the Auto Club, the CHP and Toyota Speedway with two primary objectives -- education and mitigation,” said Rick Lalor, Motorsports and Special Events Manager for the Auto Club. “Through the seminars we aim to connect with young men and women to motivate them to make responsible decisions when it comes to their conduct behind the wheel of a car or riding a motorcycle. By encouraging spectators to participate as a designated driver, we hope to avoid crashes and needless tragedy due to driving under the influence.”
A recent Auto Club analysis of California drinking and driving data from 1998 to 2007 indicated that alcohol-related crashes among young drivers have soared. The study found that women drivers ages 21-24 involved in fatal and injury alcohol-related crashes more than doubled – rising by 116% during the period. The Auto Club analysis also showed men’s crashes during the same period rose 39%.
“Those numbers suggest a significant change in our driving culture overall,” Lalor added, “Despite the $13,500 to $15,000 in fines, fees and penalties associated with a DUI conviction and the threat of death or injury, motorists are increasingly driving in a more risky fashion.
“Thorough this partnership we want to help change that behavior and reinforce the message about how dangerous it is to drink and drive and how drivers under the influence put themselves, their passengers and other motorists at risk.”
The Auto Club also offers DUI education through its traffic safety initiatives and community relations, including Tipsy Tow service on Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve; DUI educational campaigns, and also partnerships with other public agencies and private organizations.