Inside Seven
Current Issue: September 2014
The new Designation Nation social networking website aims to encourage designated driving.

Designation Nation: RADD’s New Web-Based Campaign Aims to Cut Drunk Driving
by  Kelly Markham
Issue Date: 10/2009

A cutting-edge social networking site is the centerpiece of an innovative strategy to encourage and reward designated drivers in Downtown Los Angeles.

There’s been much talk of late about the renaissance of Downtown Los Angeles. In recent years, new residents have moved into chic lofts, trendy restaurants have opened, and swanky bars and lounges are attracting crowds. Downtown – once a place that shut down at 6 p.m. – now has an actual scene. All of this has much to recommend it – economically, socially and culturally. But where there’s a burgeoning nightlife, there’s also drinking, which is frequently followed by driving. That’s a problem – especially when you consider that most of the people drawn to Downtown’s nightlife don’t live Downtown, and they don’t take public transit to get there. They drive.

Addressing this issue was the primary focus of the quarterly meeting of the RADD California Coalition (RCC), held at District 7 Headquarters on Sept. 15. (RADD is The Entertainment Industry’s Voice for Road Safety.) Caltrans is an RCC partner organization. Other coalition members include the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the California Highway Patrol, the California Office of Traffic Safety, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, numerous universities, Anheuser-Busch, owners of local bars and restaurants, and other businesses and agencies. RCC’s mission is to reduce drunk driving on California’s roads through marketing, science-based programs and lifestyle solutions.

The innovative lifestyle solution presented at the meeting was the brainchild of Angela Glenn and Harry Webber of The Gasp Company, a Long Beach-based advertising agency. The campaign centers on a social networking website known as “Designation Nation,” which seeks to swell the ranks of designated drivers in Downtown L.A. and make District 7 freeways and highways safer for everyone.

“We’re going to bring all these people together to talk about how to get friends to give you their keys,” explained Webber. “It’s like Facebook or MySpace. The difference is there’s a commonality all these people will share – preventing others from doing something destructive.”

The site’s goal is to inspire one million adults to sign a pledge stating that they’ll either serve as a designated driver when they go out or use one if they’re drinking. Site users will also be able to share tips and stories about responsible drinking and abstention, communicate with other users, and keep track of their efforts by entering information such as the number of miles they’ve driven as a designated driver.

“Everyone talks about the revitalization of Downtown. We’d like to see a revitalization of responsibility,” said Leann Rupprecht of 213, Inc., which owns numerous downtown restaurants and bars. “We have to make being a designated driver cool.”

In addition to making designated driving cool, the creators of Designation Nation also hope to demonstrate that designated driver programs work. Although research has shown that laws related to blood alcohol content, drinking age and sobriety checkpoints are effective in reducing drunk driving, no such link has been established between designated driver programs and impaired driving.

“We think Designation Nation is going to change that,” said Webber. “We’ll have data from the website to quantify the impact.”

The campaign, scheduled to launch this month, also includes a rewards card that provides designated drivers with freebies and discounts at three dozen participating Downtown hotspots. Rewards will include non-alcoholic drinks, games of pool, waived cover charges, free food and other perks. Another component of the program is a map of Downtown featuring nightlife hotspots, attractions and public transit options. The map will be available in bars, restaurants, hotels, transit facilities and in other venues.

“What we’re doing here in L.A. can be a model for other cities,” RADD President Erin Meluso said. “It’s about using communication that understands the population, looks like them, and is effective because it speaks to them.”

About 20 members of the RADD California Coalition met for their quarterly meeting at District 7 Headquarters on Sept. 15. Angela Glenn and Harry Webber of The Gasp Company, an advertising agency, pitch their designated driver campaign. This is a screenshot of the Designation Nation pledge. The site’s creators hope to inspire one million adults to participate. RADD President Erin Meluso shows attendees a “What’s the Plan?” poster, which encourages responsible drinking. It will be posted at venues all over Downtown.