HERO Patrol Cars Offer Police New Tool in the War Against Drunk Driving:New police vehicle wraps unveiled in memory of young Navy officer

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The four newest emergency vehicles to join the fleet of 20 HERO Campaign-wrapped vehicles statewide were unveiled on Friday, May 26 as part of the SJTA’s 100 Days of Summer Event at the Farley Service Plaza on the Atlantic City Expressway.

Police departments throughout New Jersey are embracing a unique statewide program to end drunk and impaired driving in memory of a young naval officer.

In partnership with the John R. Elliott HERO Campaign, a fleet of 20 police departments have turned their patrol cars into rolling billboards reminding the public to become HEROES by serving as safe and responsible designated drivers. Police cruisers statewide are being wrapped with the navy blue and yellow HERO Campaign logo and the message, “Be a HERO. Be a Designated Driver.” The HERO vehicle wrap program is expanding through a grant from the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety (NJDHTS).

The four newest HERO vehicles were unveiled during a ceremony held at noon on Friday, May 26 as part of the South Jersey Transportation Authority’s annual 100 Days of Summer event at the Farley Service Plaza on the Atlantic City Expressway.

Navy Ensign John Elliott of Egg Harbor Township, NJ, had recently graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy when he was killed in a collision with a drunken driver on July 22, 2000. In tribute to their son, Bill and Muriel Elliott established the HERO Campaign to create a national movement promoting designated driving. Over 150,000 motorists of all ages have taken the campaign’s online HERO Pledge to never drink and drive and to be designated drivers.

“These HERO vehicles are among the most effective tools we have to encourage the use of designated drivers and they are always well received by the police/EMS and the entire community in each town that partners with us,” said Bill Elliott, John’s father and founder of the HERO Campaign. “We are grateful to all of our partners, especially the three newest police departments to join our HERO Patrol Car Program: Margate, Sea Girt and North Wildwood; and the new HERO EMS Humvee in Egg Harbor Township.

“We believe the HERO Patrol Cars are a powerful reminder to motorists that designated drivers save lives, and the positive message appeals to the HERO in all of us,” stated John Stevenson, the Police Chief of North Wildwood Police Department, whose cruiser is one of the newest members of the HERO fleet.

Other police chiefs agree that the eye-catching HERO brand and message are changing behavior and reducing the incidence of drunk driving.

“Our partnership with the HERO Campaign is an important reminder for motorists to always have a safe ride home whenever they consume alcoholic beverages,” said Sea Girt Police Chief Justin Macko. “We are also excited that the Sea Girt Police Department is the first department in Monmouth County to partner with the HERO Campaign in its HERO Patrol Vehicle Program.”

“The Margate City Police Department is honored to be part of the HERO Campaign,” said Margate Police Chief Matthew A. Hankinson. “The HERO Campaign has been fundamental in the effort against driving while impaired. The officers of the Margate City Police Department have always been proactive in the battle against driving while impaired. This is especially important as we begin the 2023 Summer Season. Our new HERO vehicle will be proudly on patrol beginning Memorial Day Weekend.”

“Egg Harbor Township EMS is proud to partner with the HERO campaign to increase awareness of such an important program,” said Bill Higbee, Director of Emergency Medical Services for Egg Harbor Township. “EMS is intimately involved with the aftermath of these tragic events. We hope that this vehicle will save lives without having to turn a wheel. Prevention and awareness save lives.”

In addition to the four newest HERO vehicles, current HERO patrol vehicles from Evesham Township, Linwood, Longport, Ocean City, Ventnor, Vineland, Sea Isle City, and Ocean City police departments were also on hand for the ceremony on Friday.

The HERO police cruisers have been hailed as a game changer in the ongoing battle to prevent drunk driving, which last year claimed the lives of more than 11,000 Americans, and injured thousands more, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“Our son’s life and the lives of everyone tragically lost to drunk drivers is 100 percent preventable,” added Bill Elliott. He points out that the 37-year-old part-time house painter who killed his son had been arrested only three hours earlier by NJ State Police and released to a friend, who put him back behind the wheel while still intoxicated. The recovering alcoholic swerved into John Elliott’s oncoming car on a rural highway in Salem County, NJ, killing them both.

The Elliotts channeled their grief into action, lobbying for new legislation, known as John’s Law, which requires police in New Jersey to impound the cars of anyone arrested for DUI, preventing them from returning to their car while still intoxicated. Over 30,000 cars of arrested drunk drivers are impounded each year under John’s Law, which also was adopted by several other states.  A federal version provided incentives to states impounding the cars of drunk drivers as part of the 2005 Transportation Act.

The HERO Campaign has partnered with professional sports teams, such as the New England Patriots and New England Revolution Soccer team, who register fans to be designated drivers on the HERO Campaign’s website. For more information visit herocampaign.org or call 1-866-700-4376.