WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va - Washington County Sheriff's deputies and police officers in Damascus will be working to curb drinking and driving over the holiday campaign as part of a new campaign to encourage smart decision making.
That campaign is called "Keep the party alive. Don't drink and drive," and it's using a lot of free gear to spread the message -- giveaways like keychains, coozies, and toothpick holders, as well as signs and banners.
"[Get the message] out to our young adults beginning at the age of 18-24 to target the problems we are having with binge drinking and alcohol-related driving offenses," said Lieutenant Greg Hogston with the Washington County Sheriff's Office.
The message comes courtesy of the Washington County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, with some help from the WSCO and local businesses.
Lt. Hogston told News 5 the department is stepping up patrols this weekend using crash statistics of the last 5 years from the Virginia State Police to focus the effort. "We've taken that data and focused on that to the point where we've launched our media campaign and the parts of the county to target," said Hogston. Those locations include the Monroe and Taylor districts.
We looked at data that points to a specific age group: men between 18 and 24. Statistics suggest they are more at risk for alcohol related crashes. Project leader Kim Brown, with Highlands Community Services in Abingdon, told News 5 the data suggests a narrower age group that's at risk. "21 to 24-year-old males were the number 1 offender in Washington County. That's what our strategies are really focused towards," said Brown. "We have coasters at Wolf Hills, there are posters, there are banners. You will see those as your riding out. You will see those displayed at different places. And we really wanted to saturate this weekend, just to remind everyone to be responsible."
Green Springs Grocery near South Holston Lake is handing out coozies with each beer purchase. Malisha Eitniear picked up two. "It's amazing. Keep the party alive, don't drink and drive. I have kids myself so I think its a very important message to be relaying to kids to keep everyone safe," she said.
It turns out this campaigns message has been around for some time. "It started out with bathroom stall posters. So you will find those in more than 25 businesses, on our local college campuses, both four-year and community colleges. They're everywhere," Brown said.
A $121,000 grant through Virginia is paying for the campaign and is good for three years, totaling $363,000. The Washington County Substance Abuse Coalition will bring this particular campaign back in December for the holiday season.