Dozens of area residents came to Shamrock Irish Pub in Murrieta not long after 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 22 to celebrate and enjoy free food as they supported the efforts of a local nonprofit to curtail the number of drunken drivers on the roadway.
The restaurant was serving up free appetizers and drinks to individuals who agreed to be the driver for people they were with as part of a designated driver program.
The program was created by Tiffany’s Gift, an organization that provides local children with scholarships. The organization also seeks to inform members of the public of the dangers of driving any vehicle or vessel while under the influence of alcohol.
Murrieta residents Debbie and Mike Breslin started the nonprofit in memory of their daughter Tiffany, who sustained a major brain injury when she was struck by a boat while sitting on the Breslin family sea-doo on a portion of the Colorado River. She died shortly thereafter.
Breslin said she was motivated to advocate for drug and alcohol awareness not long after starting the organization, and that she felt it was particularly important to talk to high school-aged adolescents because of the prevalence of substance abuse among their age group.
“I think a lot of drinking and stuff like that starts with younger kids in high school and junior high,” Breslin said. “There’s a lot of alcohol and drug abuse in those areas and I feel like those kids need to know about it more and have more information at their hands.”
That’s why she started “Think First” – an extension of the nonprofit that talks to high schools and junior high schools about the dangers associated with drinking and drug abuse and how people within that age group can help curb accidents related to those habits.
It was with that same purpose in mind that Breslin started another program, the Designated Driver Program. She immediately received support from the owners of Shamrock when she explained that she wanted to lower the number of DUI-related accidents by encouraging people to make smart choices.
The program would encourage people to be the designated driver for their group or party by giving them free sodas and an appetizer in exchange for their promise that they’re not going to drink and drive.
Participating restaurants would provide their wait staff with buttons encouraging customers to ask about the program, thereby ensuring that a greater number of individuals knew about the program and its purpose.
For right now the program is limited to the Shamrock Irish Pub, but Breslin said she’s hoping it will soon spread to other restaurants since it’s the first program of its kind to reach this area.
Murrieta Police Chief Sean Hadden was in attendance at the event in support of Breslin and her program. He was also at the Murrieta Chamber of Commerce meeting and said he was impressed with the program and its intended purpose.
Hadden said that drunken driving is still a noticeable problem for Southwest Riverside.
“When I was a teenager in the 1980s MADD was just starting to get the word out about the dangers of drunk driving,” Hadden said. “And now we’re talking 30 years later and it’s still a huge problem for our area.”
But the police chief said that while drunken driving statistics indicate a continual and persistent problem for Murrieta and other communities, programs like Breslin’s stand to make a positive impact and serve as another tool for mitigating the number of alcohol-related incidents.
Breslin said she certainly hopes that’s the case.
“We’re just kind of hoping that it puts the thought in the back of peoples’ heads when they go out and have fun,” she said. “I’m not opposed to people drinking; I just want them to be responsible so that we can cut the DUI’s in this