Starting tonight, the Automobile Club of Southern California will offer free towing in an attempt to keep drunken drivers off the road during the Fourth of July weekend.
The Tipsy Tow program will be available to intoxicated drivers from 6 p.m. Friday through 12:01 a.m. Saturday in the 13 Southland counties served by the Auto Club. The service is being provided for the 12th consecutive year.
Motorists, bartenders, restaurant managers, party hosts or passengers of a drinking driver can call (800) 400-4AAA for a free tow to the driver's residence of up to 7 miles away.
Callers should simply tell operators they want a Tipsy Tow, and a tow truck under contract to the Auto Club will be dispatched.
The service does not include rides for passengers, and is restricted to a one-way, one-time ride for the driver. For distances greater than 7 miles, drivers will be expected to pay the normal rate charged by the tow truck operator.
A first-time drunken driving conviction can cost $15,000 or more in fines, penalties, restitution, legal fees and increased insurance costs, according to the Auto Club.
"All motorists should be aware of the high crash risk from drinking and driving associated with holidays and we encourage them not to get behind the wheel if they've been drinking," said Steve Bloch, the Auto Club's traffic safety researcher.
"Tipsy Tow provides motorists with a safe ride home for themselves and their vehicles instead of driving while intoxicated, putting themselves and others in harm's way."
The Auto Club offered the following safety tips:
-- designate a non-drinking driver who can get everyone home safely;
-- call a friend or family member for a ride home if you have been drinking;
-- keep a taxi company number in your wallet so you can call for a ride home;
-- as a party host, offer non-alcoholic drinks and provide a gift to guests who volunteer to be designated drivers.
-- and take car keys away from friends and relatives who have had too much to drink.