Holiday revelers who’ve had too much to drink and shouldn’t be driving can have their car towed home for free, courtesy of some of the people who worry the most about drunk drivers.
The Tacoma-Pierce County DUI and Traffic Safety Task Force, in partnership with the Pierce County Tower’s Association and Aloha Cab Co., has launched its holiday Home Safe Bar Program to keep would-be impaired drivers off the road. Beginning Dec. 15 and continuing through New Year’s Eve, 13 tow companies throughout the county will offer free five-mile tows home for drinking drivers and their vehicles.
Drivers who think they shouldn’t drive and haven’t made arrangements for a safe ride home should ask their bartender to call one of the participating tow truck companies, a DUI and Traffic Safety Task Force spokeswoman said.
Additionally, Aloha Cab will provide 35 free taxi rides home on Dec. 22. The service, which was also offered last Saturday, is for groups of three or more people in a five-mile radius in Tacoma. Revelers can continue their party by singing karaoke all the way home in the musically equipped cabs, a company spokesman said.
Aloha can be reached at 253-428-9999.
This year’s seasonal tow and taxi programs will operate alongside the task force’s Night of 1,000 Stars DUI Patrol, which will be hosted by the Fife Police Department. Twenty-five police officers, Pierce County Sheriff Department deputies and State Patrol troopers in the county will join other law enforcement agencies across the state in the crackdown on drunk and drugged drivers.
The special patrol is being funded by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.
“It’s pretty simple. “Don’t drink and drive. Instead, take the free ride,”” said John Cheesman, chief of the Fircrest Police Department and chairman of the Tacoma-Pierce County ytask rorce.
The Legislature this year approved changes to DUI laws that put toughter penalties on those convicted of drunk driving, including increased fees and facial recognition systems on ignition interlock devices.
The new legislation imposes fees to fund the interlocks for DUI-convicted drivers who can’t afford the device. For those who are required to have the Breathalyzer – which activates the device upon exceeding the alcohol limit – and can afford it, an extra $20 per month is tacked on to the original monthly interlock device fee.
Fees are deposited into an account that helps pay the cost for indigent drivers.
Stricter rules on who is required to have an ignition interlock device and who may apply for one opens up the number of devices to those who have had their original DUI charge reduced to reckless driving, officials said. This, in turn, increases the number of devices needed and generates more dollars.
“As we look to technology to assist us in changing offender behavior, maintaining quality assurance and ensuring these drivers remain sober, we need appropriate oversight in place,” said State Patrol Capt. Jason Berry as the legislation passed in March. “This will provide that, at no cost to the taxpayer.”
The task force, affiliated with the Pierce County Community Connections chemical dependency program, works to reduce deaths and injuries caused by impaired drivers. The effort includes monthly emphasis patrols by police, public education through presentations and booths at community events such as the Washington State Fair in Puyallup, holiday campaigns and an annual awards ceremony.
Police departments and other agencies that participate in the task force include the Eatonville Police and the county’s prosecuting attorney office, District Court and Superior Court, and Sheriff Department.