By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley)– The Automobile Club of Southern California is offering its free Tipsy Tow service during New Year’s Eve for the 22nd year. The community service, which over more than two decades has taken thousands of drinking drivers off the road on New Year’s Eve, is available from 6 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 31, to 6 a.m. on Monday, 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 ahead 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 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 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. Reservations are not accepted. For rides farther than seven miles, drivers can expect to pay the rate charged by the tow truck contractor.
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 costs and inconvenience as reasons they don’t use alternate transportation, according to the Auto Club.
“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. Drivers should also be aware that DUI laws apply to impairment by any drug, not just alcohol,” said Anita Lorz Villagrana, the Auto Club’s community programs and traffic safety manager. “They should plan for a sober ride ahead of time so they arrive safely to and from parties, games and other locations.”
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 Lorz Villagrana, and the holiday is widely regarded as the most dangerous holiday night of the year.
“It only takes one or two drinks to slow physical and mental skills that affect vision, steering, braking judgment, and reaction time,” she said. “Drivers should be aware that the California Highway Patrol and law enforcement agencies observe a maximum enforcement period on New Year’s Eve and are on alert for motorists under the influence of alcohol or any drug. All their personnel on duty focus on impaired drivers,” she added.
During the holiday, the CHP also will watch for distracted driving and other traffic safety infractions such as not wearing a seat belt. “The toll from impaired driving in California is enormous and has a profound impact on drivers, families and friends,” said Lorz Villagrana.
According to the CHP, during the 2015-2016 New Year Eve’s holiday (Dec. 31, 2015 to Jan. 3, 2016), there were 355 people killed or injured on California roadways as a result of alcohol-related crashes. In addition, CHP officers made more than 1,200 arrests for driving under the influence during the New Year’s maximum enforcement period, according to the agency’s data.
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 Lorz Villagrana.
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.
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. The Auto Club also has a new tip card called Drive High, You Get a DUI since marijuana legalization will go into effect on Jan. 1. Although Tipsy Tow is offered by the Auto Club and other AAAs, 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 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/sober ride telephone number in your cell phone and wallet 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.