Don’t get caught without a designated driver this holiday season. For a free designated driver both before and after consuming alcohol, call 575-391-2982.
The Lea County DWI Program’s Tipsy Taxi service began its ninth year the weekend after Thanksgiving and will continue through New Year’s Eve.
The program aims to reduce DWI crashes and arrests by offering free transportation to and from company parties and public establishments where alcohol may be consumed.
Tipsy Taxi drivers will pick up anyone and take them to their events and will act as a designated driver on the return trip.
Kelly Livingston, director of the Lea County DWI Program, said Tipsy Taxi is a county-sponsored designated driver service available every weekend after Thanksgiving through the end of the year, including New Year’s Eve.
The service is available for round trips from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays and New Year’s Eve, which is a Tuesday this year.
“We used to start at 9 p.m., but we found that people didn’t call because they didn’t want to leave their vehicles in the parking lot overnight,” Livingston explained. “So, a couple of years ago we changed the time to 6 p.m. so we can give round trips.”
Generally, Tipsy Taxi avoids transporting individuals between private residences. An exception might be a company party being held at the CEO’s house and Livingston has verified the situation.
“Outside of that, we won’t drop anybody off at a private house because we don’t know if you’re allowed to be there,” Livingston said. “It’s public liquor establishments or other public places. We’ll pick people up, take them there and when they call that they’re ready we’ll take them back home.”
In its seventh year under the name Tipsy Taxi (it was called Holiday Safe Ride the first two years), the service continues to gain popularity among Lea residents, increasing usage each year.
During the last holiday season, Tipsy Taxi transported 336 people. So far this year, the count is 43 rides, but there are big weekends and numerous New Year parties ahead.
The Tipsy Taxi service uses Lea County vehicles and employees, with the cost only being vehicle fuel and overtime, Livingston said.
“We do it for the community and the residents. We’d like to educate the community to the point we could say we have zero DWIs, but unfortunately, we’ll never get there,” Livingston said. “We’re always going to have DWIs, but if we can save one person … it’s safer for everybody. It’s safer for the person drinking. It’s safer for the families on the streets. That’s all we do is try to reduce the DWIs and this is one more avenue for that.”
Livingston emphasized the service is government-run, not a vendor.
“It’s zero cost. There are DWI programs across the state that provide safe rides for a nominal fee, but ours is free,” she said. “We have had people, being inebriated, try to tip the drivers, but our drivers don’t accept tips.”
Reviewing possible consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, Livingston said, “It all depends on whether it’s their first DWI. Monetarily, it could cost them up to $10,000. If it’s a second or subsequent DWI, there’s community service, interlock device installed in their vehicle.
“They have to have treatment. They’ll be on probation at least a year, DWI school, the victim impact panel, and that would be just the minimum. They would have to have alcohol and drug abuse screening approved by the state.
“That’s the minimum consequences,” Livingston added, acknowledging crashes could have much greater results. “‘It’s not worth it’ is one of our logos.”
The number to call for a free designated driver both before and after consuming alcohol is 575-391-2982.