Highway 17 in Pender County, North Carolina is bad news. The community of Hampstead is served by three bars along the highway and a number of restaurants on the nearby beach. That makes for good evenings out, but for many years diners who had a few too many were not be able to call a ride – this unincorporated area had no taxi service.
The result: a frightening amount of drunk driving, and a highway with a reputation for carnage.
After starting a taxi company in the area, a man named Jeremy Cooper noticed these drivers, and resolved to do something about it. “I sat outside all the bars and saw people stumbling to their cars and driving off. Their excuse was they only lived around the corner. Ever since, I’ve been working non-stop against drunk driving.” Ferrying home drinkers was a good way to save a few lives.
Of course, some people refuse to take advantage of his services. Cooper took a video of one of these impaired drivers and posted it on his Facebook page as a lesson to all. Now he says he plans to post video regularly of anyone who looks as if they aren’t in shape to drive. He’s seen it a hundred times.
The purpose is an unabashed desire to shame drunk drivers. He hopes that the drivers will see themselves on the site and be embarrassed enough to change their behavior.
“No one likes being tarred and feathered,” he says. If it’s good for business, so much the better. He notes that a taxi ride is much cheaper than a North Carolina DWI.
Will public shaming work? There’s certainly a chance. Hampstead has a population of 4000, so it’s a bit harder to keep a low profile there. Cooper is hoping that social media will do what the area’s over-burdened police force can’t: lead drinkers to make the right decision and call a ride home.
“Every town should work together to get rid of this problem,” Cooper says. “This could actually get rid of drinking and driving altogether.”