In a continuing effort to prevent New Year’s revelers from driving while intoxicated, public and private enterprises are offering free or affordable rides home Dec. 31 for residents and visitors who have had too much to drink.
The Automobile Club of Southern California will be offering its Tipsy Tow service for the 16th consecutive year and Eastern Sierra Transit Authority will be running its Dial-a-Ride services in Bishop and the trolley in Mammoth until 2 a.m.
Party-goers who plan to imbibe are, in general, urged to make transportation arrangements ahead of time – whether it’s hitching a ride home with Dial-a-Ride or lining up a trusted, designated driver.
To ensure New Year’s revelers don’t get behind the wheel after drinking, the California Highway Patrol will be hitting the streets in full force, with about 80 percent of its officers working over the holiday.
Over last New Year’s holiday, CHP officers made more than 1,200 DUI arrests statewide and 25 people were killed in collisions throughout the state. The majority of those who died in those collisions, the CHP reported, were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.
Nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 32,885 people were killed in traffic crashes in 2010 and 31 percent of those fatalities involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
This year, the CHP enacted a Maximum Enforcement Period yesterday that runs through Tuesday, Jan. 1. During a Maximum Enforcement Period, the CHP has every available officer on duty.
“Safety is the California Highway Patrol’s priority year-round,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “Hopefully with the presence of additional officers on the roadway during the holiday season, everyone will arrive safely at their destination.”
Serving as an additional set of eyes for law enforcement, the public is also encouraged to report drivers who they suspect may be under the influence. When calling 911, residents should be prepared to provide a description of the vehicle, including a license plate number, the location and its direction of travel.
“Our ultimate goal is to help prevent avoidable tragedy by encouraging the public to make responsible choices such as designating a sober driver, buckling up, and traveling at a speed safe for conditions,” said Farrow.
In an effort to help keep drunk drivers off the roads New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, the Eastern Sierra Transit Authority will be offering its Dial-a-Ride services until 2 a.m. New Year’s morning. The service is available in the Bishop area, out to Rocking K and Laws.
Dial-a-Ride is offered for $4.20 for adults and $3.60 for seniors and the disabled. Anyone who needs Dial-a-Ride services New Year’s Eve is encouraged to call (760) 872-1901.
ESTA Dispatcher Ellen Barranco said Dial-a-Ride is a popular service in Bishop on New Year’s Eve, and drivers often see large groups of people utilizing the service. She said those hoping to get a ride home should call about 20 minutes in advance to allow the driver time to reach their location.
In Mammoth, ESTA has extended its Night Trolley until 2 a.m. through the winter season. The red and green trolleys will operate seven nights a week from 5:40 p.m.-2 a.m. with stops every 20 minutes. The Night Trolley serves Canyon Lodge to the Village, then along Main Street and Old Mammoth Road with the route terminating at Snowcreek Athletic Club. The last trolleys depart Canyon Lodge at 1:40 a.m. and Snowcreek Athletic Club at 1:40 a.m.
Also, AAA will be offering its free Tipsy Tow service for New Year’s Eve motorists who have been drinking.
Tipsy Tow is good for a ride home for the driver and their vehicle, but passengers will not be transported.
“Drinking drivers frequently don’t plan for other ways to get home because they are concerned about retrieving their vehicle the next day,” said AAA Public Relations Officer Elaine Beno. “They cite taxi costs and inconvenience as a reason they don’t use alternate transportation.”
Those who would like a Tipsy Tow need only call (800) 400-4AAA for a free tow of up to seven miles.
“Callers need to keep in mind that the service excludes rides for passengers, is restricted to a one-way, one-time ride for the driver and the destination is limited to the driver’s residence,” Beno said.
Those who need to travel more than the seven-mile maximum distance can expect to pay the rate charged by the tow truck contractor providing the service.
Tipsy Tow is available to everyone, not just AAA members.
“Drivers should be aware of the high crash risk from drinking and driving associated with the holidays and we encourage them not to get behind the wheel if they’ve been drinking,” Auto Club Senior Researcher Steve Bloch said. “It only takes one or two drinks to slow physical and mental skills that affect vision, steering, braking judgement and reaction time. Drivers should be aware that the California Highway Patrol and law enforcement agencies use sobriety checkpoints and extra patrols to look for drinking drivers during the holiday.”
People convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol could cost a first-time offender about $15,600 or more in fines, penalties, restitution, legal fees and insurance costs.
“This New Year, resolve to make a difference and save lives,” said Commissioner Farrow. “By removing impaired drivers from our roadways, this tragic loss of life can be greatly reduced.”