Baltimore City

Free taxis for drinkers at city bars, restaurants this weekend

The Celentano family knows the irreversible dangers of drunken driving all too well.

In 2001, Jerry Celentano's 18-year-old daughter, Alisa, was killed in a crash involving a drunken driver. "She had her entire life ahead of her, and in a split second, life as we knew it was no more," he said Thursday at a Baltimore event to raise awareness for the fifth annual Tipsy? Taxi! campaign. "Alisa lost her life to a preventable crime."

With his wife standing nearby holding their daughter's senior portrait, Celentano spoke of his family's painful experience and urged Baltimoreans and their visitors to take advantage of the Tipsy? Taxi! service over the July Fourth weekend. His wife, Paula, also spoke during the press conference.

Sponsored by the State Highway Administration, AAA and Yellow Cab Co., the program provides free rides, up to $50, for alcohol-indulging drivers celebrating the holiday weekend in Baltimore. The service, open to anyone age 21 and older who has been drinking at a city restaurant or bar, is available from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday by calling 1-877-963-TAXI.

"I need you and I want you to be safe this holiday weekend," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. "We are truly pleased that Tipsy? Taxi! will be in effect this Fourth of July weekend for those who are visiting Baltimore's bars and restaurants."

And law enforcement officials stressed they would be looking for signs of any drivers impaired by alcohol or drugs.

"Drunk driving crashes are not accidents. They are not victimless crimes. What they are is preventable," said Calvert County Sheriff Mike Evans, president of the Maryland Sheriffs' Association.

The Tipsy? Taxi! campaign has proved to be popular in previous years, providing 281 free rides last Fourth of July weekend and more than 1,900 rides since the program's inception.

"Sadly, every year hundreds of Americans are killed on our nation's roads as we celebrate Independence Day," said Ragina Averella, spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "Most of these tragedies could have been avoided if drivers took the time to understand how real the dangers and serious potential for injuries and fatalities are, not only to themselves, but to their passengers and other motorists when someone makes the reckless decision to drive while impaired."