WEST READING, Pa. – The number of Berks County bars and restaurants joining the John R. Elliott HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers has surpassed 30 since the campaign — which aims to prevent drunken driving deaths and injuries — came to the county in 2021.

"The more we collaborate with things like this, I think the stronger we get," said Adam Cocuzza, owner of Nitro Bar in West Reading.

As part of the national initiative, places are serving free soft drinks, mocktails and coffee along with other non-alcoholic drinks to designated drivers. 

"A lot of the bar industry in the more metropolitan areas are starting to really embrace the zero-cocktail, or zero-alcohol cocktail mocktail lifestyle," Cocuzza said.

The HERO Campaign was created in memory of John R. Elliott, who died in 2000 after a collision with a drunken driver just months after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy.

Council on Chemical Abuse prevention specialist Paige Carroll is helping with the campaign in Berks County.

"We want people to have a good time, but to get home safely," Carroll said.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the number of fatalities in crashes involving impaired driving decreased in 2021. It has been a trend for the past 15 years now, but the state said the number still remains high.

Carroll is looking to add more establishments to the list of those already involved with the HERO Campaign to make the roads safer for everyone.

"People are recognizing the program," Carroll said. "They see a need for it, and now we just really need individuals to take advantage of this incentive."

Restaurants and bars that want to get involved can visit the Council on Chemical Abuse website.

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