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By Tayla Williamson
Ballarat’s desperate decision to adopt the Designated Driver Program not only targets the growing alcohol-related problems in the community, but leads the way for other cities to successfully do the same.

The Designated Driver Program was introduced earlier in the year, and is a bid from the Ballarat City Council, Victoria Police, the Liquor Accord, Roadsafe Central Highlands, and Power FM to promote responsible planning of safe transport options, and offer an alternative to drink driving.

Patrons at participating venues can take part in the initiative by informing the staff and identifying themselves as their group’s Designated Driver, and receiving a stamp with which they can receive up to five free soft drinks or water.

The program is supported by various Ballarat venues, including the Haida Bar, the Karova Lounge, the Front Bar, the Bluestone, JD’s Sports Bar, and the George.

Acting Senior Sergeant Paul Kinna believes that while it is in its early stages, the initiative is a much needed program and a great benefit to the community of Ballarat, and will help the city tackle its irresponsible drinking problem.

While some Ballarat youth regard the initiative as a ‘waste of time’ and ‘not very popular’, the majority believe it is a step forward in the battle against safety concerns while drinking.

Figures based Journalist’s own survey results from patrons at Ballarat’s the Bluestone, the Karova Lounge, and the Haida Bar.

Even though there were people who did not agree with the initiative and some who said they may not fully embrace it, many people said they would make use of the program.

Regular nightclub patron Kate Swift says the initiative not only provides options to patrons of Ballarat’s Clubs and Pubs, but also encourages them to take part and ensure the safety of themselves and their friends while they are drinking.

Many see the initiative as a long needed implementation not only in Ballarat, but across Victoria and Australia, to reduce the amount of alcohol-related incidents, as shown in a recent call to lower blood-alcohol limit for drivers, and alarming figures from the TAC.

Figures courtesy of TAC

According to The Age article Use of force by police most likely in CBD, recent reports from the Victoria Police have shown Ballarat has recorded high incidents of use of force or capsicum spray on people affected by substance abuse, including alcohol.

A report presented by The Age called Use of Force uses statistics provided by the Victorian Police to show the areas in Victoria which recorded high levels of police force to combat violence, with Ballarat recording high and growing incidents of these cases.

Image courtesy of The Age report ‘Use of Force’

This finding is supported by the current nightlife in Ballarat, which sees normally quiet streets and venues during the daytime turn into loud areas filled with drunken, aggressive, and troublemaking alcohol-fuelled people at night.

Ballarat’s Karova Lounge during the day

Ballarat’s Karova Lounge at night

This new initiative follows many other programs put in place in Ballarat to conquer these alcohol-related problems, along with Drink Drive Campaigns to promote responsible drinking and driving.

In 2003, the Ballarat City Council launched the Be Safe Late Program which aimed to reduce the number of drunken incidents by increasing the amount of lighting in the nightclub precinct, reducing the lock-out time to 3am, and implementing a Ballarat Police ‘Target Control Group’ to provide additional police resources.

The program saw great success in reducing the alcohol-related incidents and crime in Ballarat, with an overall decrease of 39.85% for assaults, and 17.32% for property damage.

While the program proved a great benefit for alcohol-related crime, it failed to resolve the issue of drink driving among the patrons of Ballarat’s venues.

With this program still in place, the addition of the Designated Driver initiative is hoped to help combat all problems associated with alcohol within Ballarat’s night time venues.

For more information about alcohol abuse and drink driving visit Alcohol Anonymous or VicRoads.