The Automobile Club of Southern California is offering its free Tipsy Tow service during the New Year’s Eve holiday for the 16th year. The community service is available from 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 31, to 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 1, to help remove drinking drivers from the road. Tipsy Tow is available in the 13 Southern California counties served by the Auto Club.
Motorists, bartenders, restaurant managers, party hosts or passengers of a drinking driver may call 1-800-400-4AAA for a free tow home 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. A regular 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 their vehicle.
Drinking drivers frequently don’t plan for other ways to get home because they are concerned about retrieving their vehicle the next day. They cite taxi costs and inconvenience as reasons they don’t use alternate transportation, according to the Auto Club.
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. Reservations are not accepted. For rides farther than seven miles, drivers can expect to pay the rate charged by the tow truck contractor.
“Drivers should be aware of the high crash risk from drinking and driving associated with holidays and we encourage them not to get behind the wheel if they’ve been drinking,” said the Auto Club’s senior researcher Steve Bloch.
New Year’s Eve is a traditional time for family gatherings, parties, restaurant outings and activities that contribute to a more relaxed atmosphere and more opportunities for drinking alcohol, according to Bloch.
“It only takes one or two drinks to slow physical and mental skills that affect vision, steering, braking judgment, and reaction time,” he said. “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.”
California arrests large numbers of DUI offenders every year, enough to fill LA Memorial Coliseum twice. In 2010 (latest data available) 198,249 drivers were arrested for the offense. “Motorists need to be aware that many enforcement agencies are targeting drinking drivers and as a result, arrests for DUI in the state have increased by 11 percent since 2001,” according to Bloch. “The toll from drinking and driving in California is enormous,” Bloch added. “In 2010, the latest data available, more than 25,000 persons were killed or injured in alcohol-related crashes.”
A recent AAA report found that 10 percent of motorists admit to driving when they thought their blood alcohol content was above the legal limit. “This is entirely preventable,” said Bloch.
People convicted of driving under the influence could lose many of the important things in their lives, such as family, job, dignity and money. The Auto Club estimates that a first offense misdemeanor DUI conviction in California can cost approximately $15,649 or more in fines, penalties, restitution, legal fees and increased insurance costs. The figure is up 29% from last year – largely due to a 37% increase in insurance, fines and other cost increases. The cost of an under age 21 first-offense misdemeanor DUI is $22,492.
Current laws, enforcement, public awareness, and education efforts by public service-oriented organizations, including the Auto Club, have contributed to the decline in the number of alcohol-related fatalities during the past 13 years. The Auto Club provides the Tipsy Tow service and free publications as part of its “You Drink. You Drive. You Lose.” public awareness campaign. Although Tipsy Tow is offered by the Auto Club and other AAA clubs, it is not a nationwide program. Check with your local AAA club for availability.
The Auto Club advises that motorists can keep themselves and others safe and can avoid DUI arrests by keeping these safety tips in mind:
- Always plan ahead to designate a non-drinking driver before any party or celebration begins
- At social events, designate non-drinking drivers who can get everyone home safely.
- Never serve alcohol to those under age 21.
- Never ride as a passenger in a car driven by someone who has been drinking alcohol – even after just one drink.
- Call a friend or family member for a ride home if you have been drinking.
- Keep a cab company telephone number in your wallet so you can call for a ride home.
- As a party host, offer a variety of non-alcoholic drink alternatives and provide a gift to guests who volunteer to be designated drivers.
- Take the car keys away from friends and relatives who have had too much to drink.
- If you encounter an impaired driver on the road, keep a safe distance and ask a passenger to call 911 (or pull over to a safe location to make the call yourself).
- Remember: prescription, over-the-counter medications and illegal drugs also can impair your ability to drive safely.