For the 23rd year in a row, the Automobile Club of Southern California will offer its free Tipsy Tow service during New Year’s Eve. The community service which aims to keep drinking drivers off the road will be available from 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 31, to 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 1. Tipsy Tow is available in the 13 Southern California counties served by the Auto Club.
The Auto Club urges party-goers to plan for a sober ride or use a designated driver if attending a gathering. But if those plans fall through, motorists, bartenders, restaurant managers, party hosts or passengers of a drinking driver may, as a last resort, call 1-800-400-4AAA for a free tow home or hotel, where they are a registered guest, of up to seven miles. Callers simply tell the Auto Club operators, “I need a Tipsy Tow,” to receive the free tow and ride home. An Auto Club-contracted roadside service truck will be dispatched. The Auto Club’s free service is unique in that it transports both the driver and the vehicle.
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 or hotel where they are a registered guest. Reservations are not accepted. For rides farther than seven miles, drivers can expect to pay the rate charged by the tow truck contractor.
“New Year’s Eve is widely regarded as the most dangerous holiday night of the year,” said Anita Lorz Villagrana, Auto Club Community Programs and Traffic Safety Manager. We remind drivers about the high crash risk from driving impaired and that DUI laws apply to impairment by any drug, not just alcohol.”
According to the California Highway Patrol, during the last New Year's Eve for which data is available (Dec. 31, 2016-Jan. 1, 2017), 36 people died and 1,849 were injured on California roadways because of alcohol-involved crashes. In addition, CHP officers made about 1,000 arrests for driving under the influence, according to the agency’s data.
People convicted of driving under the influence could lose many of the things they value most in their lives, such as family, job, dignity and money. The Auto Club estimates that a first-offense misdemeanor DUI conviction in California for an adult age 21 or older can cost approximately $21,731 or more in fines, penalties, restitution, legal fees and increased insurance costs. Costs related to DUI have risen sharply in recent years largely due to a large increase in fines and insurance for DUI drivers. The estimated cost of a first-offense misdemeanor DUI for those under age 21 is $22,500.
In addition, the Auto Club reminds drivers to be attentive behind the wheel during their travels this holiday. The Auto Club’s multi-year initiative to combat distracted driving is called “Don’t Drive Intoxicated. Don’t Drive Intexticated.” The goal is to increase the stigma around texting while driving, like the stigma that exists with alcohol-impaired driving, by reminding motorists that the consequences of both behaviors could be the same - deaths and injuries.
The Auto Club offers these tips to stay safe and avoid DUI arrests this New Year’s Eve:
- Designate a non-drinking driver before any party or celebration begins.
- Never serve alcohol or provide drugs to those under age 21. It’s illegal and dangerous.
- Never ride as a passenger in a car driven by someone who was drinking alcohol or using drugs.
- Call a friend or family member for a ride home if you’ve been drinking or using drugs.
- Keep a cab company number or ride sharing app on your cell phone so you can call for a ride home.
- As a party host, offer non-alcoholic drinks and provide a gift to guests who volunteer to be designated drivers; provide overnight accommodations to guests who’ve been drinking.
- Take the car keys away from friends and relatives who’ve been drinking.
- If you encounter an impaired driver on the road, keep a safe distance and ask a passenger to call 9-1-1 (or pull over to a safe location to make the call yourself).
- Remember that prescription, over-the-counter medications and illegal drugs also can impair your ability to drive safely and can often sharply increase the impairing effects of alcohol.