Crime & Courts

Get-home-safely service available to Midlands-area New Year’s Eve revelers

New Years revelers in Lexington who party too hard Saturday can rely on a new service to take themselves – and their cars – home safely.

The rides come from 11 towing companies through an arrangement organized by town police.

It’s a plan that developed as police looked for more ways to keep inebriated drivers off the road, according to Cpl. Cameron Mortenson. Tow truck operators are filling a void since there are no taxis regularly stationed in the community of 25,000 residents, he said.

The service, with its $100 flat fee, also ends concern about the inconvenience of temporarily abandoning a vehicle, he said.

The cost of a DUI arrest and conviction averages about $10,000 per person, Mortenson said. “Above that, there could be the loss of a life. You certainly can’t put a price on that,” he said.

In Columbia, free or reduced-fare taxi rides are available around many holidays and major events.

No one keeps track of usage in Lexington, but the service is beneficial, Mortenson said.

“We’ve had a lot of our bar owners and patrons say it’s a service they use, it’s a service they’re able to promote to their customers,” he said of the program that began in May. “They want to get their customers home safe. We want them to get home safe.”

Bars and restaurants have contacts available for tow truck pick-ups. Employees or servers may call a provider if a patron is clearly intoxicated, Mortenson said.

As with taxi or ride-sharing service, the patron has to pay. A maximum of two persons can ride in the tow truck hauling a vehicle up to 15 miles.

Getting involved in the program was an easy decision, according to Ashley Jones, office manager for Pro Tow in Columbia.

“It’s gonna help save people’s lives,” she said. “People are getting behind the wheels of cars and driving drunk. They’re killing others, they’re killing themselves.”

It’s the second step recently by Lexington police to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries related to drunken driving.

Since 2014, anyone can receive free non-alcoholic drinks by displaying a blue bracelet while serving as a designated driver for a friend at several bars and restaurant in town.

Both arrangements give “those who have been drinking every choice and opportunity to make the smart decision and not get behind the wheel while intoxicated,” Police Chief Terrence Green said.

Reporter Tim Flach contributed to this story.

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