OCEAN CITY — Daniel DuRoss’s three daughters wore their father’s image on T-shirts that explained how a drunken driver killed the 29-year-old Atlantic City police officer on Sept. 24, 1963.
Kimberly DuRoss, who was 3 at the time, sees signs that awareness campaigns have changed public perceptions of the danger and consequences of impaired driving from a time when they viewed less seriously, she said.
She and her family — including sisters Susan, who was 9 at the the time, and Debbie, who was not yet born when her father was killed — attended Sunday’s Hero Walk, a fundraiser for the Ensign John R. Elliott HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers.
“Now it seems more people are aware. Friends take keys away, have designated drivers,” said DuRoss, 52, of Egg Harbor Township. “I’ve even seen it: one person will not drink so their friends can. And I think it’s because of efforts like this.”
The HERO Campaign is well-known in the region. It was started by Bill and Muriel Elliott, an Egg Harbor Township couple whose son, John, was killed by a repeat drunken driver in Salem County in 2000.
The designated driver campaign has expanded in the past 12 years. It is now in five states, on billboards and television commercials, at a dozen colleges and several professional sports stadiums, including Citizens Bank Park and MetLife Stadium.
Bill Elliott estimated nearly 2,000 people participated in the Hero Walk, a 5K that started on the Ocean City Boardwalk. He expects it will have raised about $125,000, which is $25,000 more than the inaugural event last year.
“I think it’s a repetitive message to change the public’s consciousness and behavior about a problem like this,” Elliott said. “You have to get their attention, appeal to their common sense and tell them what action you’d like them to take.
“I’d like to think the battle against drunk driving is going to be won by the designated drivers,” he said. “When you go to a football stadium or baseball game, you can’t give a message that says don’t drink. So if you can say, have a safe ride home, we think that’s the message that will work.”
Intoxicated driving remains a major problem in the United States, according to federal data.
The federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that Americans drove after drinking too much about 112 million times in 2010.
Elliott said the nonprofit hopes to reach more states, including Kentucky, Louisiana, Vermont, Florida and others. It is currently in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Massachusetts.
“We want it to be orderly growth because we need funding to keep up with that growth,” he said.
Sunday’s event in Ocean City was attended by hundreds of teachers and students from local schools.
Tom Duff, 15, an Egg Harbor Township High School student and neighbor of the Elliott family, has known about the campaign since he was very young.
“This is a message I think everyone will keep with them. Just like all these terrible deaths from drunk driving, people know someone has to be a designated driver,” he said.
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