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On New Year's Eve, Carroll Cab offering free rides within Westminster

It's not always easy finding a ride home in Carroll County after a night of celebrating New Year's, but if you live — or are staying — within the city limits of Westminster this year, Carroll Cab would like to help you out.

"We are going offer a free ride home, only in the [city limits of Westminster], for an hour and a half; from midnight to 1:30 a.m.," said Carroll Cab owner Sean Mulgrew. "If you are in one of the local establishments in the city of Westminster and you live in the city of Westminster, or you are going to a hotel, we will gladly … give you a free ride home."

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Prior to midnight, Carroll Cab will be offering rides at its normal rates — $5 base fare and $2.50 per mile — according to Mulgrew, while rides after 1:30 a.m. will have an additional $25 surcharge, which he said is also normal for late rides.

For those thinking of hiring Carroll Cab to drive them into Baltimore for the evening's festivities, Mulgrew suggests they plan ahead, as his cars won't be making trips to Baltimore between midnight and 1:30 p.m.

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"I would rather take care of my customers in town than driving somebody to Baltimore," he said. "Love the money, but for this particular time period, we want to just take care of people in the city of Westminster. They would be better off doing it early, going to Baltimore early and take a cab or an Uber from Baltimore back."

Uber, the smartphone-based ride service, first began offering rides in Maryland in 2013, and has won some local fans, even if Uber drivers are not as plentiful within Carroll's borders as they are in Baltimore. Kristin Poklemba, of Finksburg, has used Uber both in Baltimore and in Carroll, and she said it was easier than hailing a cab and the cashless transaction — payment is handled through a mobile app — was both safe and easy for persons who have been imbibing.

"It is so easy and convenient. One evening, we were at our local bar that we frequent often and decided to look on Uber just for kicks to see if there were any drivers. I believe it was a Friday night and there were about two or three cars within the Carroll area," Poklemba said. "I think we only had to wait about five to seven minutes before our driver showed up."

For the greater Baltimore area, the Uber base rate is $1.50, plus 15 cents per minute and $1.10 per mile, according to David Burd, general manager for Uber in Maryland, although "dynamic" pricing can push that far rate up dramatically when demand is high.

And if there's a night of high demand for Uber, he said, it's New Year's Eve.

"It's the busiest night of the year for us. For new users, I would say, plan ahead," Burd said. "It's busy all night but it's actually busiest after midnight, and so they might think about heading home right after to avoid some of the rush. Splitting fares is a good way to keep it economical. You might find a friend to head home with."

New Year's Eve is not typically a busy time for Carroll Cab, however, and Mulgrew thinks he knows why.

"It still seems to me, like people drink and drive … that people take their chances," he said.

Driving after imbibing is a poor decision on many levels, but those who are still considering a New Year's Eve of partying without a plan for getting home — whether it's via Carroll Cab, Uber or a designated driver's car — should consider the fact that local law enforcement will be looking for intoxicated drivers on New Year's Eve.

"The Carroll County Sheriff's Office, as well as many other law enforcement agencies throughout the area, will have additional saturation patrols, which will be focused on stopping impaired drivers," said Cpl. Jon Light, of the Sheriff's Office. "We would remind everyone of the importance of planning for a sober ride home before any festivities begin."

Between midnight and 1:30 a.m., at least, Mulgrew is hoping he gets a lot of calls.

"I'm footing the bill on this one — there is no Mothers Against Drunk Driving money, no county money, no nothing money," he said. "We'll see how it goes: If people take advantage we will do it again next year. Otherwise, it's a one-time deal."

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