The Automobile Club of Southern California is urging those who celebrate the Fourth of July with family and friends to plan their return from the celebration to avoid drinking and driving by designating a sober driver. In addition, the Auto Club’s free community service, Tipsy Tow will be available as a last resort during the holiday. For the 17th year, the service is available from 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 3 through 11:59 p.m. Friday, July 4, to help remove drinking drivers from the road. Tipsy Tow is available in the 13 Southern California counties served by the Auto Club. Tipsy Tow is not offered by all AAA clubs.
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 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.
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. Drivers can expect to pay the rate charged by the tow truck contractor for rides farther than seven miles.
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. Tipsy Tow provides motorists with a safe ride home for themselves and their vehicle instead of driving while intoxicated.
“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.
Fourth of July is a traditional time for barbecues, family gatherings, parties, picnics and activities that contribute to a more relaxed atmosphere and more opportunities for drinking alcohol, according to Bloch. It’s also an opportunity to plan ahead and designate a sober driver since law enforcement has planned ahead with increased enforcement patrols, he added.
“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 are likely using sobriety checkpoints and extra patrols to look for drinking drivers during the holiday.”
California law enforcement officials arrest large numbers of DUI offenders every year. In 2012, 175,407 drivers were arrested for the offense, or enough to fill Dodger Stadium more than three times. “The toll from drinking and driving in California is enormous,” said Bloch. In California, 24,000 individuals were killed or injured in alcohol-related crashes in 2012, he added.
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 cost is up 29% over the past few years – largely due to an increase in fines and insurance. The estimated cost of a first-offense misdemeanor DUI for those under age 21 is $21,500.
A recent AAA report found that 14 percent of motorists admit to driving at least once in the past year when they thought their blood alcohol content might be above the legal limit. “This is entirely preventable,” said Bloch.
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 11 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. It also co-leads the Orange County DUI Task Force, a coalition of more than 65 local law enforcement, public health, city, county and university and college groups.
The Auto Club advises that motorists can keep themselves and others safe and can avoid DUI arrests by keeping these safety tips in mind:
- At social events, designate non-drinking drivers who can get everyone home safely.
- Do not serve alcohol to anyone under age 21.
- Call a friend or family member for a ride home if you’ve been drinking.
- Never ride as a passenger in a car driven by someone who has been drinking alcohol – even after just one drink.
- Keep a cab company telephone number in your wallet so you can call for a ride home.
- As a party host and good friend or loving family member, offer a variety of non-alcoholic drink alternatives, serve food as well as dessert and coffee, and provide a gift to guests who volunteer to be designated drivers. Plan for and allow guests stay overnight.
- Create a back up plan to spend the night at the party instead of driving home under the influence.
- Take car keys away from friends and relatives who have been drinking.
- 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.