Sunday, December 30, 2012
AAA offering free tow service on New Year’s Eve to prevent drunk driving
Call 1-800-222-4357 or your local taxi service.
Countless North Texans will attend New Year's Eve parties Monday night where some will consume alcohol before welcoming 2013 with a champagne toast.
Unfortunately, many of these people will later get behind the wheel and put the lives of themselves and others in danger by driving while intoxicated.
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that one person is killed every 48 minutes in an alcohol related crash -- a total of more than 10,000 people annually.
To help prevent these deaths, several organizations are helping spread the word that there are options other than driving drunk.
One of these groups is AAA Texas, which is offering free tow truck service to impaired drivers. To access the service, call 1-800-222-4357.
"Every New Year's Eve we offer our Tipsy Tow service where we tow people's cars back to their residence," said Sarah Schimmer, AAA spokeswoman. "We want to be out there in partnership with local law enforcement agencies and help remove drunk drivers from the road. We still want people to go through the steps and arrange for a designated driver, but we are out there as an alternative if you find yourself without any other options."
The AAA tow service is free for up to 10 miles, Schimmer said, adding that the cost of additional miles must be negotiated with the tow truck driver. Service in rural areas may be slightly delayed because there are less towing services available, but the Tipsy Tow service is offered statewide, Schimmer said.
"One way that our service is unique is that some people may choose to drive if they are under the influence because they don't want to leave their car behind," she said. "If they have overindulged and don't want to leave their car behind, we will get the driver and their vehicle to their home for them."
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Schimmer added that she encourages bars and party hosts to keep the Tipsy Tow number on hand for their patrons. She also said the service does not take reservations and the ride is good for the car's driver only, since the tow truck cab doesn't have room for additional passengers.
Another group getting the word out about the importance of finding another way home is Bartenders Against Drunk Driving, a Plano-based nonprofit that encourages bartenders to look out for their customers' wellbeing.
BADD's Jason Wooden said the group will again be passing out T-shirts and business cards at area establishments that have the number 1-800-TAXICAB on them. While calling the number won't result in a free cab ride -- standard cab fares will still apply -- Wooden said it will get the partygoer home safe.
"If we can get the bartenders and bar managers to wear the BADD T-shirts it will serve as a reminder to the people at the bar not to drive drunk," he said. "The phone number will be right there in their face."
From a law enforcement standpoint, many area agencies will be stepping up patrols to catch drunk drivers, said David Tilley with Plano PD.
In Plano, officers that would normally be off-duty will be on patrol specifically looking for drunk drivers, Tilley said. Once a person is arrested on suspicion of DWI, a blood sample will be taken -- either voluntarily or with the aid of a warrant.
"A lot of agencies are instituting no-refusal policies for the holiday, but we have them year-round," he said. "Each weekend we have a phlebotomist and judge on call for people suspected of driving under the influence who refuse to consent to a blood sample."
While a cab ride may seem expensive at first, Tilley said it is nothing compared to the costs of being convicted of DWI. While costs may vary, Tilley said a first-time offender can expect costs approaching $10,000 -- if not more -- when all surcharges, attorney's fees, auto insurance increases, and fines are taken into consideration.
Those convicted will also lose their driver's license, something Schimmer from AAA said can be crippling in a state where mass transit is not available in all areas.
"We are a driving culture in Texas, and if you lose your drive's license you basically lose your livelihood," she said. "It is definitely not worth the risk for that reason, and it is also not worth risking your safety and the safety of others on Texas highways."
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