Students Learn About Fire Safety and the Importance of Designated Drivers at HERO Campaign Day

The University held a Safety and HERO Campaign day on the residential quad on Wednesday, Sept. 25 to encourage students to make safe and smart decisions.

Students were invited to attend the event sponsored by the Howell and West Long Branch Fire Departments, Monmouth University Police Department (MUPD), the Office of Residential Life, the Office of Substance Awareness, the University’s Fire Safety and HERO Campaign, and the New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company. 

The HERO Campaign is a national non-profit organization that was created in 2000 after John Elliot, a graduate of the Naval Academy, was killed by a drunk driver.

The objective of the campaign is “to promote the use of sober designated drivers to prevent drunken driving tragedies throughout our country,” according to the organization’s website.

The HERO Campaign partners with law enforcement agencies, schools, restaurants, the U.S. Navy, and various other organizations across the country in an attempt to encourage people to volunteer as designated drivers (DD) for friends.

“The message of the HERO Campaign is for everyone, not just students. It is a real life message,” said Suanne Schaad, Substance Awareness Coordinator. “We market it as a positive thing to be a DD for your friends and promote it accordingly. We want people to remember to thank their DD’s and appreciate what they are doing,” she continued.

The University is a proud partner of the HERO Campaign, and holds a Safety and HERO Campaign day each year to encourage students to get involved. Students who attended the event were given free food and t-shirts, and were able to participate in a few fun activities.

Students learned proper fire safety from Howell and West Long Branch firefighters. They also used a drunk driving simulation where drunk goggles were worn while trying to maneuver a golf cart through a small course that was set up on the quad.

“The drunk driving course was definitely my favorite part of the event. It was a lot of fun, but it was really scary to see what it feels like to drive drunk,” said Sarah McGrail, sophomore English major. “It’s terrifying to think that people get behind the wheel of a car like that.”

MUPD Officer Frank Graham showed students all of the different types of equipment that can be found in each MUPD patrol car. Graham said, “I think it [the HERO Campaign] definitely improves campus safety. It’s proactive policing; it’s proactive, period.”

According to The Century Council, a non-profit organization that fights drunk driving and underage drinking, 31 percent of all vehicle traffic fatalities were caused by drunk drivers in 2011.

“We’re just trying to say that you don’t have to not drink, but you should be safe about it. Have a designated driver, be smart,” said Jaime Robinson, a graduate student who is currently interning in the Office of Substance Awareness at the University.

Schaad explained that anti-drinking messages aren’t always well received, especially with college students. So as a way to promote designated driving and safe drinking habits among University students, the HERO Campaign holds a “Designated Driver HERO of the Year” contest each school year.

“It is hard to exactly measure how many lives this message saves, but we believe it makes people think twice. This type of thinking before you go out can be contagious…and that is what we are seeing. We want people to be talking about it,” Schaad said.

“A lot of bars and restaurants downtown are hooked up with the HERO Campaign,” Robertson explained. “I know that Jack’s, for example, will give you free soft drinks if you’re a designated driver for the night.”

Also present at the HERO Campaign day were representatives from the New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company. As a part of their Don’t Text and Drive Campaign, the group was trying to collect signatures for the cause.

Louis Alcuri, Promotions Coordinator for the group explained, “For every pledge that NJM receives this year from someone who pledges not to text while driving, we’re going to donate $1 to charity.”

The group is attempting to collect 50,000 signatures by the end of the year, and so far, they’ve acquired 27,000. “We’re well on our way,” Alcuri said. Not only that, but NJM has also donated 55 driving simulators to high schools across the state as a way to set up a program for safe teen drivers.

With organizations like NJM and the HERO Campaign partnering up with schools across the nation, safe driving has become a top priority. For University students looking to become a designated driver, the HERO Campaign meets once a month in Java City.

“We ask all first year students to get a local cab number in their cell phones, use the new shuttle, come by the Health Center for a cab voucher, and volunteer to be a DD so we can increase safety on and around campus,” Schaad said.