Remembering tragedy that prompted ‘Designated Driver’ campaign

The “Designated Driver” campaign got its start, in part, after WBZ-TV reporter Dennis Kauff died from injuries sustained in a 1985 car crash caused by a drunk driver.

After learning about Kauff’s death, Jay Winsten of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health got the idea of working with local media and Hollywood to spread the word about the importance of always having a designated driver who’s sober. He worked on the campaign with WBZ, which created public service announcements and ran editorials.

“The concept caught on within Massachusetts, and that was the proof of concept for us,” said Winston, director of the Center for Health Communication, in a November 30, 2018 interview on WBZ-TV, CBS Channel 4 in Boston.

Winsten began working with Hollywood producers and studio executives to get the concept of the designated driver written into the scripts of popular TV shows, which helped change social norms and public policies around drunk driving and contributed to a significant decrease in alcohol-related driving fatalities.

Read or watch the WBZ-TV story: Designated Driver Program Arose From Tragic Crash That Killed WBZ-TV Reporter

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Designated Driver Campaign: Harvard center helped to popularize solution to a national problem (Harvard Chan School feature)