Just 250 bars sign up to 'designated driver' offer for Christmas period
Alcohol Action Ireland disappointed as only 2pc of pubs, hotels and restaurants register
The Christmas campaign to keep drunk drivers off our roads has been effectively ignored by the hospitality industry with only a fraction taking up a 'Designated Drivers' initiative.
Sponsored by Coca-Cola, the campaign encourages drivers to become the responsible driver for the night by offering two free soft drinks.
But only 250 venues out of 10,582 pubs, hotels and restaurants have signed up.
Speaking about his disappointment at the news, Eunan McKinney of Alcohol Action Ireland said: "We are curious why there may be such a low take-up by vintners across the country for this designated driver campaign.
"Perhaps this is a very busy time for publicans but one would have hoped that they would have been encouraged by the scheme's partners, the VFI and the LVA, to eagerly participate."
He added: "The very idea of less alcohol being sold at this time may simply be a step too far for many publicans, who see Christmas as 'the gift that keeps on giving' and not an opportunity, or responsibility, to remind drinkers alcohol harms."
But, Donall O'Keeffe, chief executive of the Licensed Vintners Association of Ireland said: "We wholeheartedly support the campaign and we would be encouraging our members to sign up to it this Christmas."
Mr O'Keeffe said it was "hard to say" why the take-up is so low but he added: "We represent the Dublin trade so thankfully there are a lot of options for customers who are looking for alternative ways to get home."
He said: "Publicans have to offer choice to their customers but it is the customer's responsibility to uphold the law. Pubs have also made lots of product options available including soft drinks and non-alcoholic beer."
Meanwhile a spokesperson for Coca-Cola said it is grateful and proud of the venues taking part and hoped more will honour the vouchers.
"Our business takes immense pride in supporting road safety throughout the Christmas season," she said.
"We are delighted to continue our support for designated drivers by providing free soft drinks from our range to those who go the extra mile to ensure their loved ones get home safely this Christmas.
"We're thankful to, and proud of, the hundreds of outlets who choose to take part in Coca-Cola's Designated Driver campaign each year.
"To date, we have over 250 outlets, across the island of Ireland signed up to the initiative, with more signing up each day. We also know that many additional outlets across the country honour requests from designated drivers throughout the campaign.
"There is still an opportunity for outlets to sign up and formally participate and we would like to encourage all those who are interested to reach out to us."
Coca Cola has put €7m into the annual initiative, which is now in its 14th year, in the hope that it will encourage people to be safe on Irish roads.
Last year, the company donated more than 97,000 glass bottles of its various products to the designated driver campaign, with more than a million bottles consumed since the initiative began in the early 2000s.
Research shows more than 51pc of 18 to 35-year-olds take on the role of designated driver at some point during the festive period.
Designated drivers can choose from Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Deep RiverRock, or Appletiser, at any participating pub or restaurant.
The names of the outlets which have officially signed up to the campaign can be found on the Designated Driver website.
To avail of the two free drinks from the Coca-Cola range at participating venues, customers need to download a voucher from the Designated Driver website and present it to bar staff or present themselves as the designated driver to bar staff.
- For information, log on to www.designateddriver.ie