On the face of it the Tipsy? Taxi! program seems a wonderful service. On popular holidays, when the booze tends to flow freely, folks who have had a little too much to drink can call a taxi and get a free ride home without having to worry about field sobriety tests, blood-alcohol levels or any of the other depressing details surrounding a drunk driving arrest.
The program is swinging back into action this week for St. Patrick's Day -- co-sponsored, as before, by AAA Mid-Atlantic, the State Highway Administration and Yellow Cab.
But after past postings on this blog to alert people to the availability of the service, Gettting There has received complaints from potential riders who say they've had difficulty getting through on its telephone line. This, of course, is a serious matter for anyone who was counting on Tipsy? Taxi! being there in the event of overindulgence.
So with no guarantees of the reliability of the service, here are the particulars: The service will be available between 4 p.m. Wednesday and 4 a.m. Thursday to people who have been drinking at a Baltimore city restaurant or bar. Rides are free up to $50, though generous tips from mellow riders are encouraged. Riders must pay any balance over $50.
The number to call for a ride is 1-877-963-TAXI, or 877-963-8294.
Certainly, St. Patrick's Day is a worthy date for the service. According to AAA, there were 134 U.S. traffic deaths on that day in 2008 -- significantly above the daily average for that year. According to the federal government, at least 37 percent of the drivers and motorcyclists killed on that day were legally drunk.
The greatest value of this program may not be the relatively paltry number of rides it provides -- 120 last year -- but in its promotion of the idea of taking a cab home from a night of revelry. Even when the rider pays, the cost of a cab ride is an excellent investment when compared with the thousands of dollars and far-reaching consequences of a DUI arrest.
The best strategy if you're going to an establishment where you suspect -- or know -- you'll be drinking heavily is to leave your car home and find another way there. That way, you won't have the option of fooling yourself into thinking you're OK to drive a few hours later when your judgment leaves something to be desired.
Use Tipsy? Taxi! by all means, but keep a stash of taxi fare on hand just in case.
Readers are encouraged to provide feedback about Tipsy? Taxi! and any other services that promise safe rides home for those who have been drinking.