Free Rides Try to Curb NYE Drunk Driving

Californians can party safely this New Years' Eve thanks to a free ride and tow program

Ringing in new year could also mean ringing a cab to get home after having too much to drink, but the auto club AAA is offering New Years’ partiers a free ride.

On New Year's Eve and into the wee hours of 2012, Tipsy Tow will provide impaired drivers throughout California a free ride and vehicle tow up to seven miles from their pickup location.

The program is just one part of an amped up nationwide and local initiative to combat drunk driving and alcohol-related deaths during the holiday season.

More than 10,200 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. That figures accounts for nearly a third of the overall vehicle-related fatalities for that year.

California was among the top two states that saw the largest reductions in drunk-driving fatalities between 2009 and 2010 – declining by more than 100 deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Nationwide, advertisements that read “drive sober or get pulled over” are popping up on highways and television screens reminding Americans not to get behind the wheel impaired.

"Safety is our focus year round … but this holiday season, we're stepping up our efforts to get drunk drivers off our roads," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a press release. "We're making gains in our fight against drunk driving, but we cannot and will not let up."

That national effort has blossomed locally as SoCal Highway Patrol began observing a maximum enforcement period Friday that runs through Monday, during which time law enforcement will expand their focus beyond inebriated motorists.

Drunk and distracted drivers will be targeted – which means putting on make-up, eating, reading, tuning the radio or texting are all reasons to get pulled over, CHP Officer Kevin Tao told NBC LA.

When hosting or attending a party during the holidays, following some alcohol best practices could ensure the night ends safely.

Coordinating rides to and from celebration locations, eating high-protein snacks, coffee and dessert, stopping alcohol consumption 90 minutes before a party ends and taking keys away from intoxicated guests will help usher in the new year without tragedy, according to AAA.

AAA’s complimentary service is open to everyone and is available throughout California, but not all states are home to the safe-ride program. Here's a list of participating auto clubs throughout the country.

To ask for a Tipsy Tow, call 1-800-400-4222.

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