Ultimate Big Brother winner Brian Dowling visited Belfast’s Ten Square Hotel recently to officially launch ‘Designated Driver’ Coca-Cola’s award winning Christmas safe driving campaign.

The aim of the campaign, which was developed with the support of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Dept of the Environment, is to reduce instances of drink driving during the festive season.  Consumers who volunteer to be the designated driver on a night out will be rewarded with up to three free soft drinks from the Coca-Cola product portfolio in participating pubs, clubs and restaurants across Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the launch, TV favourite Brian expressed his support for the Designated Driver campaign.  “I’m delighted to be here in Belfast today to help Coca-Cola launch Designated Driver.  We all love a good night out during the festive season and this campaign encourages people to make responsible decisions and ensure they get home safely.  Drink driving is a major cause of road collisions at this time of year but with soft drinks on the house this Christmas, there are more reasons than ever to be the designated driver.”

Since its launch in 2007, the campaign has been evolving and this year Designated Driver will feature an exciting province wide road show.  A team of Designated Driver ‘Chauffeurettes’ will take to the road to spread the campaign’s safe driving message and reward drivers with some fantastic prizes.  The campaign’s website www.designated-driver.co.uk provides a full list of participating licensed outlets and an exciting new free to download iPhone app, which enables users to find their nearest participating Designated Driver pub when they’re out and about.

This year, Designated Driver has also shifted its online presence up a gear with the launch of a dedicated Facebook page, www.facebook.com/cocacoladesignateddriver which will be a fun focal point for all information relating to the campaign and will feature some great new competitions.

Erica Roseingrave, Public Affairs & Communications Manager for Coca-Cola HBC Northern Ireland is appreciative of the overwhelming support for Designated Driver.  “As a leading soft drinks supplier in Northern Ireland, we are delighted to be in a position to play a role in reducing the problem of drink driving during the festive season.  Working in partnership with our customers all over Northern Ireland, we aim to offer consumers a tangible reward for choosing to be the designated driver on a night out.  We are grateful to DOE, PSNI and all the publicans across the province who support the Designated Driver campaign – without them this initiative would not be possible.  Finally, we would like to thank everyone who makes the responsible decision this Christmas by choosing to be the designated driver.”

Driving home the serious message behind the campaign, Environment Minister, Edwin Poots explains, “I fully support any initiative that improves road safety.  As we plan for Christmas, we have a duty to our own families and friends to ensure we are there to celebrate with them. We also have to ensure other people are able to celebrate with their relatives and friends too.  The safest way to do that is to book a taxi or have a designated driver who will not drink alcohol.

“Last year, 21 people were killed and 115 were seriously injured in collisions attributed to alcohol or drugs.  All of these families’ lives changed forever the moment the drivers responsible took a drink and decided to drive.

“My message to all drivers is clear: just one drink will impair your driving.  It’s your fault if someone dies or is seriously injured because you decided to drink and drive.”

Head of Road Policing, Superintendent Muir Clark adds, “It is critically important for passengers to ensure their designated driver hasn’t been drinking and that people resist the temptation to overload vehicles.

“Sometimes I wish we could show more people the horrific results of someone taking the stupid, selfish decision of getting behind the wheel after drinking. While the number of people killed on roads in Northern Ireland to date this year is half that of this time last year (51 compared to 104), all it takes is one wrong decision, one moment’s inattention or one drink to instantly changes lives forever.

“If everyone slowed down, did not drive after drinking or taking drugs, wore a seatbelt and drove with greater care and attention then together we can reduce this preventable carnage on our roads.”