Lifelike Anti-Drunk-Driving Ads Get Message Across in Annapolis

Lifelike Anti-Drunk-Driving Ads Get Message Across in Annapolis

At the Acme Bar and Grill in downtown Annapolis, MD, women making a trip to the restroom are greeted by a life-sized image of a drunken woman slumped on the ground, a beer can in one hand. Men are met by a tattooed man sprawled out over a stall, just as he is about to vomit. These cutout images help remind customers not to drive and drive, and they refer them to a website:  www.duiis4losers.com.

Shantee Woodards of HometownAnnapolis.com writes that Acme began using the decals about a month ago. “(The reactions) tend to change week to week,” said Kevin Epley, the bar’s owner. “The customers are usually surprised to scared to relieved when they come in. They say, ‘Oh my God!’ and then ‘Wow!'”

The Maryland Impaired Driving Coalition oversees the website, which offers state statistics and video interviews with Marylanders who have lost loved ones to accidents with drunk drivers. The site also provides a links and contact information to anyone who might need a designated driver in the state or in Washington, D.C.

The group worked with Annapolis-based Idle Time Advertising Company, which began distributing the cutouts the week before the Super Bowl; they went to 24 bars in the state. Acme and The Whiskey on West Street are the only county establishments to have them.

Another launch will begin in time for St. Patrick’s Day, said Jeremy Gunderson, project coordinator for the program. The group’s next step also includes a plan to illuminate a sign on Madison Street in Baltimore that will announce vacancies for drunken drivers at nearby Central Booking in the city.

The response to the cutouts has been positive so far, with patrons posing with the faux drunkards and posting the pictures on Facebook. “We’re hoping that would-be drunk drivers see the message right before they leave the bar and make that decision,” Gunderson said. “We’re hoping the message isn’t so much fear of incarceration or injury, just to provide and make people aware of all of the alternatives that are out there to driving drunk.”

There were 8,427 accidents in Anne Arundel County in 2008, according to the latest figures available from the State Highway Administration. That includes 663 crashes in which alcohol was listed as a factor.

Both the Maryland House and Senate are reviewing a bill that would require those convicted of drunken driving to have a lock on their vehicle’s ignition that would prevent the car from starting until the driver passed a Breathalyzer test.

The Maryland Highway Safety Office also has community traffic safety coordinators in each county who aim to develop local messages about road safety.

William Meyers, the coordinator for Anne Arundel County, has been trying to get the word out about the drunken driving effort. He has distributed coasters that have messages similar to the cutouts, but hasn’t received any feedback yet.

Still, he said he believed this effort was a fresher way of sending what has become an old message. “So many people have a stake in traffic safety, and they all have a different message and they’re all trying to get the word out there,” Meyers said.

“I think that’s why we have to mix it up a little bit. You hear one thing so much that you kind of block it out. This is trying something new, so that’s why DUI is 4 Losers is out there.”

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