Richard Peschek, a corporal at the Bel Air Police Department, thinks bartenders and waitresses have a duty that goes beyond serving dinners and mixing drinks.
Workers at taverns and restaurants in the county should prevent their customers from drinking too much and then driving, the corporal said.
Corporal Peschek spoke at a session Tuesday to train tavern and restaurant employees on how to keep customers off the road if they've had too much to drink.
About 15 people from five county establishments attended the session, sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the county Highway Safety Committee. The participants included Vonjensen's Tavern and Restaurant in Aberdeen, Colonel's Choice Restaurant in Aberdeen, Tosconi's Carry-out in Aberdeen, the Eagle's Nest in Aberdeen and the Darlington-Dublin Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Tuesday's session was offered as part of a new designated-driver program that awards people who abstain from drinking so they can drive those who do.
"You have to understand that you're a very important, key people in this program," Corporal Peschek told the group. "You're the baseline. You're where it starts."
The supervisor of the Bel Air department's traffic-alcohol unit said participation in the designated-driver program could protect establishments from being sued by victims of drunken-driving accidents.
"The person that you're serving in there may go out and into an automobile," the corporal said. "You're not just protecting yourself and your business by being in our program. You may be protecting your family, loved ones and friends."
About 1,300 people were charged with driving while intoxicated, and 11 were killed in drunken-driving accidents in Harford last year, according to police statistics.
At Tuesday's session, the bartenders and waitresses watched a videotape that explains ways they can spot people who may have had too much to drink to get behind the wheel. The signs of intoxication include slurred speech, and blood-shot eyes.
The videotape also suggests establishments should handle intoxicated customers by providing food, slowing service to slow the pace of drinking, and -- as the last step -- cutting off alcohol.
But a barmaid from the Eagle's Nest said the designated-driverprogram may not always work. She noted that a group of customers came into her bar, and one of them said he would be the designated driver. But when the group left, a drinking customer drove them home.
"What do we do about that?" she asked Corporal Peschek.
"Call the police," he answered.
In the designated-driver program, employees of participating bars and restaurants will tell parties of two or more that the business participates in the designated-driver program. Patrons who agree to be designated drivers will wear pins, entitling them to free non-alcoholic drinks.
On leaving the establishments, designated drivers will get tokens for goods and services at county shops.
Other training sessions are scheduled for Sept. 16 at the Aberdeen Police Department and Sept. 25 at the Motor Vehicle Administration in Bel Air.