Bars and taverns that belong to the New Jersey Licensed Beverage Association and Uber are teaming up with the John R. Elliott HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers to provide safe rides home for thousands of patrons during the holiday season.

(Jon Schulte, ThinkStock)

Participating NJLBA members will offer free soft drinks and other benefits to designated drivers who sign up with the New Jersey-based non-profit HERO Campaign online or at special HERO Night NJLBA events, according to a news release.

Bill Elliott, Chairman and CEO of the HERO Campaign, said Uber will provide free rides up to $20 for first-time riders who sign up through the NJLBA, and will bolster its efforts to increase the number of drivers available near bars and taverns at peak late night hours on weekends.

"Uber will be at various events over the holidays, but also people can go online and setup an account with Uber, and they're going to have a New Jersey Licensed Beverage Association code that people can input NJLBA, and then they'll know that NJLBA is connected with their new account. Any new driver, any new customer of Uber, over the holidays will get that free ride, regardless of where they are," said Elliott.

The HERO campaign also will have membership cards available at upcoming HERO events during the holiday season, which will be recognized at bars and taverns that are members of the NJBLA for free soft drinks and other benefits, according to Elliott.

The HERO campaign was established in memory of Elliott's son, John Elliott of Egg Harbor, who was killed by a drunk driver in July, 2000, two months after graduating from the United States Naval Academy.

"We started the campaign to encourage and promote designated driving to prevent other tragedies like the one that took the life of our son, because we don't want anyone to experience that knock on the door that everyone dreads at 4 in the morning," Elliott said.

The HERO campaign has expanded to seven states and is currently working on a goal to enlist 100,000 designated drivers, according to Elliott.

"Our campaign is to get people to be designated drivers for their friends and family, Uber is now joining the campaign with their free ride program over the holidays, and the NJLBA is joining the program to recognize the heroes at all their bars and taverns," said Elliott.

"We believe this partnership with Uber and the HERO Campaign is a major step forward in keeping our patrons safe," said NJLBA President James Bennett of Sea Isle City, owner of La Costa Bar and Liquors and Lobster Loft Restaurant. "We also are committed to helping the HERO Campaign prevent drunk driving in John Elliott's memory."

More than 1,300 Uber drivers have signed up with the HERO campaign, according to Elliott. "Although it's not free rides, they have provided over the last month, 20,000 rides for people that are at bars and taverns on a Friday or Saturday night, so we think this is going to significantly decrease the potential for DUI incidents in the coming months, and we intend to do a study to measure that between now and Memorial Day to see what effect this has had in reducing DUI's," Elliott said.

"This partnership is about creating an environment that allows people in New Jersey to celebrate responsibly with the knowledge that they can always get a safe ride and a designated driver at the tap of a button," said Ana Mahony, general manager for Uber New Jersey. "Uber is proud to be working with the HERO Campaign and NJLBA to keep drunk drivers off the road this holiday season."