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If someone has had too much to drink on a major holiday, several AAA organizations will tow their vehicle home for free, services that were used by more people than ever over the recent holiday period.

So is this good news, or bad news? It's emphatically positive in that more potential drunk drivers were kept off the road over the holidays, said AAA Auto Club South's Joanne Newton, whose organization covers Florida, Georgia and parts of Tennessee. But it's bad news, Newton said, because more drivers are now using the towing service as "Plan A, instead of as a program of last resort."
The way it works is that a driver who has had too much to drink and has no way of getting home can call AAA and get their vehicle towed home, and get a ride home themselves. The service operates with "no questions asked," which means AAA does not ask for a driver's personal details or even require AAA membership. A party host can also call on a guest's behalf. Although AAA Auto Club South did not yet have data available for this year's holiday Tow to Go program, last year it towed more than 1600 drivers home, and Newton said this year's total was "substantially higher."

The program began in 1998, and was expanded to cover Charlotte, N.C., and parts of South Carolina this year. AAA Auto Club South works with more than 900 local contractors and corporate sponsors including beermaker Anheuser-Busch, which collectively share the costs. Similar programs exist in other areas, notably in Connecticut and the Northeast, and Southern California, where it's known as "Tipsy Tow."

"Since its inception, Tow to Go has safely removed more than 11,000 potential drunk drivers from the roads in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Charlotte, N.C., thanks in part to the efforts of wholesalers and retailers, and local law enforcement," said Kathy Casso, a spokeswoman for Anheuser-Busch. "These are our roads and our families and it is our collective responsibility to help keep them safe."
Tow to Go operates on every major holiday and on Super Bowl Sunday, and Newton said every driver that calls the service is picked up. Incredibly, one driver was towed more than 100 miles to their home, although that was a rare case. Any costs incurred, Newton said, are dwarfed by the program's success in helping keep drunk drivers off the road.

More than 900,000 drivers are arrested each year on suspicion of DUI. More than one-third are repeat offenders. More than 12,000 people die each year in DUI or DWI-related incidents.
"This year, we did extremely well. Maybe a little too well. For future we wish to stress that people make a plan before they go out, such as designating a sober driver. [Tow to Go] is a program of last resort," said Newton. "It's kind of scary that all of these people drink with their keys in their hands, but we're thrilled to be part of the program. It's a program that not only raises awareness but you can point to it and say we actually got a drunk driver off the road."

As alternatives to using the Tow to Go service, AAA recommends designating non-drinking drivers who can get everyone home safely, calling a friend or family member for a ride home, or keeping a cab company telephone number in your wallet.

Jim Shuler, at the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety, said the state welcomes AAA's Tow to Go service as part of a "multi-pronged" effort by the state's law enforcement agencies and advocacy groups to reduce drunk driving.He said the service is particularly valuable on major holidays when the state elevates the number of highway troopers and DUI checkpoints.

"We appreciate when we see see advocacy groups working on behalf of the safety of our roadways. We're all working together for the same ends, to reduce the number of drunken driving injuries and fatalities. It's not something the police and highway patrol can do by itself," he said. "We prefer the idea of planning ahead, to designate a driver or plug the number of a taxi service in your phone. But Tow to Go is an excellent plan as a last resort."

Drivers should be aware that they can be arrested on drunk driving charges if they are found sleeping in their cars and fail a field sobriety test, said Florida lawyer David Haenel.


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  • 183 Comments
      • 4 Months Ago
      This is an excellent program, addressing a problem that's not going to go away no matter how much you threaten or punish. "Nancors" mentions Canada's program which sounds like an excellent idea, the issue of business insurance cost is not a major obstacle. The company would require proof the vehicle has insurance coverage before driving it. If Canada's insurance is anything like California's they would be covered. So risk and liability would be limited. But let's take this a step further, AAA also sells auto insurance, let's get the Gecko and other insurance carriers involved by having them include this coverage on your auto policy. Mercury Insurance currently offers roadside assistance free on many of their policies. The AAA program seems unusual but think about it what greater vehicle problem is their then a driver who is broken. Coverage could be set up many ways, it can be limited in the number, the distance, etc. You could buy extended coverage. Those who already have DUI convictions on their record could be required to carry this coverage. Everybody benefits, the reduction in accident claims alone, should offset much of the cost. One last note, Many DUI arrests happen to people who don't really know if their breaking the law or not. Drinking and driving is not illegal unless it impairs your ability to operate the vehicle or your over .08. Install breathalyzers at all bars. Don't laugh, the most effective means to influence one's behavior, is personal knowledge.
      Maria
      • 4 Months Ago
      What an amazing program. My husband's car has been hit 2 times by drunk drivers..and one of the times my little boy was in the car. They were both ok..thank goodness. I wish I had those idiots email address so I could forward this to them before they kill someone. Well done AAA...great company.
      TALKING TO ALL DUMBASSES
      Grvstwn, your an *******, a dumb one.
      dal
      • 4 Months Ago
      Yes you have the right to drink, and no you don't have the right to drive it's a privilege you must earn and be license to do. Any idiot can drink and generaly do. But if you think you can drink then drive your not just an idiot but a killer and should be charged with attempted murder if you are caught driving while impaired no matter how benign it may seem to you, it shows your lack of respect for human life be it yours or anyones elses. to knowingly do something that can lead to anothers death is murder not man slaughter!
      • 4 Months Ago
      Pl would do anything to be American. Too bad Poland is full of morons and cowards. How did WW2 work out for you guys?
      • 4 Months Ago
      Considering all the negative issues regarding drunk driving in the US (i.e. death, personal injury, property destruction, insane fines, lawyers fees, crowded DUI courts, civil service man hours, etc... WHY HAVEN'T THE US AUTO MANUFACTURERS CONSIDERED MANDITORY BREATH ALCOHOL IGNITION-INTERLOCK DEVICES (BAID) INTO ALL NEW CARS!!!??? (The time is way past due to make BAID devices as mandatory as seatbelts & airbags!!!) wjk
      Wonder
      • 4 Months Ago
      Am I suppose to think that the pain of losing a loved oned is greater when the offender is dui than it is under all other *************? Please just consider this from the many whose loved ones were lost to a none drunk driver.
      wojtek
      • 4 Months Ago
      Hmm 900,000 arrested per year on suspicion of drunk driving,, thats good for the drivers that were suspected of drunk driving not being drunk,,,,,,, Thats billions of losses for townships etc... I wonder how many of those non drunk drivers sue for wrongfull accusal and unlawfull arrest for not braking any laws,, and how much they win per year.. Thats why in Europe they don'f suspect of anyone driving drunk every police car has a brethalizer tester in the car.. Its not like ohh she looks drunk lets arrest her,, first test the alcohol level in the system and check to seeif they exceeded the allowed alcohol volume, according to states law..
      • 4 Months Ago
      we dont need all the help we just need people who know when thy have had to much if it was up yo madd thye would bring back prohibition
      artforbucks
      • 4 Months Ago
      I've often thought that the bars, restaurants, etc. should set up a program - drink as much as you want, we'll get you home, leave your keys on the bar, we'll put you in a taxi... If the bars could get the Insurance companies to buy into a pilot program, seems like it should pay for itself, Some upsides: -happy, relaxed customers, who spend more money, stay longer, -car services, cab companies get additional business. -fewer drunks on the road.. -fewer tort claims against insurance companies Downsides: I can't think of any...Anybody ?
      vlady1000
      • 4 Months Ago
      Personally, I think cell phones, etc are a bigger problem and getting worse. When i see somebody swerving or stopping abruptly, they usually have a cell phone in their hand, not a beer can.
      spmazanek
      • 4 Months Ago
      Drunk driving laws are primarily designed to enrich attorneys, cops, and the justice system. It's one thing to get the real drunk off the road but to call someone who had two or three beers or glasses of wine at resturant with their wife a "drunk" because they blew a .05 or .08 an miscarriage of fairness and justice. These are not the people killing on the highways. Most probably drive better than many drivers completely sober. Just had a friend stopped after work and when asked, told the police she had not had a drink. They took to the station because she failed the impossible subjective test (you know the one where you tilt head back and stand on one leg and recite the alphabet backwards) and she blew a .00. No ticket or arrest of course but her car was towed at the cost of $275. I'm sure the cops got their share from the towing company. At a Christmas party a friends brother who is a cop was there. He was blasted and bragging about how they make people do stupid things on the roadside sobriety tests and laugh at them. This is freedom? Or how about my friends son who was just at the legal limit, lost his license for 6 months and now his job. I can attest to this young man's character and say he is no "drunk". Now his whole life is upside down. Driving cars are dangerous and entail risks and any accident that causes injury or death is tragic and the real drunks need to be off the road. But they're not. How many times do you hear about a serious accident and the drunk had an astronomical blood alcohol and already on the revoked list. These are the killers. The system has cast too large a net, not to eliminate DUI accidents but to try to make as many citizens it can criminals so they pay into the system.
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