PA Senator: Come on and Take a Free Ride (Instead of Driving Drunk)
By: Chris Kramer
In the past 30 years, DUI and drunk driving awareness has increased significantly, thanks in part to the educational efforts of groups like
MADD. But today, even though every state in the Union outlines serious penalties for those convicted of driving with a BAC of .08% or greater, drunk driving continues to be a problem in the United States.
To combat the often deadly effects of driving under the influence, Pennsylvania State Senator Stewart Greenleaf has decided to take action.
According to Phillyburbs.com, Greenleaf has developed SafeRide Home, a program that would provide those who have had too much to drink an alternative to driving home while intoxicated. Though the details of Greenleaf's program have not yet been developed, he's reportedly looking to Aspen, Colorado for inspiration.
Aspen's program, called Tipsy Taxi, has been serving the community since 1983, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website. Using only donations (translation: no tax dollars), Tipsy Taxi provides free taxi rides for those who have had too much to drink while out at restaurants and bars.
The program works based on a voucher system, which allows bartenders to recommend patrons for rides or accept patron requests. No permanent records are kept, which allows Tipsy Taxi to run in complete confidence. Plus, the Aspen police department has agreed to waive any towing fees a driver accrues overnight because of leaving a car behind.
The various elements of the Tipsy Taxi program also serve to enhance police enforcement of those who are suspected of driving under the influence. According to the NHTSA, arresting officers are unlikely to "go easy" on those suspected of DUI, since those drivers had an easy, safe and free option they chose to ignore.
Tipsy Taxi has apparently flourished in Aspen, where education about drunk driving has helped convince community members that donating to the program is much less expensive than potentially being hit by a drunk driver or facing DUI charges.
Evidently, current Pennsylvania efforts to curb DUI violations are not working: sources indicate that alcohol plays a role in 13,000 Pennsylvania car crashes each year. And 36% of all traffic deaths involve alcohol, according to the Department of Transportation.
So far, Greenleaf has suggested funding the SafeRide Home program with money from liquor license purchases, which can cost up to $225,000 in the districts he represents. He apparently believes that the costs of running SafeRide Home would be significantly less than those of prosecuting and penalizing people of DUI. And of course, the program could be instrumental in preventing DUI fatalities.
Greenleaf is quoted on Phillyburbs.com as noting that measures like lowering the legal BAC limit and ratcheting up enforcement have proved ineffective at addressing the overall problem of intoxicated driving in the state. It's time to try something new, in the Senator's opinion, and SafeRide Home seems to be his proposed solution.
As of now, news sources have not indicated whether not those who used SafeRide would have to pay for the service.