AAA has partnered with AmRide and Roncari Express Valet Parking to launch "Arrive Safe," a service intended to discourage drunken driving. The program, which will offer free rides home to impaired party-goers on New Year's Eve, was announced Thursday afternoon in AAA's West Hartford office.
The unique feature of this program, said AAA's Public Affairs Manager Aaron Kupec, is that callers will be driven home in their own cars by AmRide's professional drivers.
"We can't do it all," said Connecticut State Police Spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance who attended the announcement.
"This is a great addition to everything we're doing to enhance safety on the roads."
Arrive Safe will be operated by AmRide, a Rocky Hill-based company that offers "Drive You in Your Own Car" services, and callers who need a ride home on New Year's Eve can call AAA at 1-800-AAA-HELP (1-800-222-4357) to request a ride. Although rides can't be pre-scheduled, those who think they may need to use the service can register in advance at amride.com to expedite the scheduling process.
Arrive Safe will operate on New Year's Eve, between the hours of 10 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 31 and 3 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 1. Rides of up to 10 miles will be free to callers over age 21 from Hartford, Middlesex, Tolland, New London, and Windham counties. There will be a charge of $2.50 per mile for distances over 10 miles.
AAA has offered safe rides programs in the past, using cabs and tow services, and they have been used by a handful of people. This is the first year a professional driving service has been enlisted on New Year's Eve, and Kupec thinks this is the only AAA club in the country to offer this type of program.
"As far as we're concerned, if one person takes advantage of the service, and prevents them from getting behind the wheel while they're impaired, it's served its purpose," Kupec said.
"Approximately 90 people died in alcohol-related crashes on Connecticut roads in 2011, and the holiday season is a particularly dangerous time of year for impaired driving," said Kupec.
The Connecticut State Police will have sobriety checkpoints in place and will be out in force on New Year's Eve. According to Vance, Troopers arrested 44 drunk drivers and investigated 268 crashes during New Year's Eve 2011-2012. He urges celebrators to designate a sober, non-drinking driver in advance.
"Drinking and driving can quickly turn a holiday celebration into a tragedy and it is something that is totally preventable," said Rene Rodriguez of AmRide. He hopes people will utilize Arrive Safe as an "emergency transportation option" when a designated driver is not available.
"Even a moderate amount of alcohol can impair driving performance," said Marnie Cooper, sales and marketing manager for Roncari Express Valet Parking, which is helping to fund Arrive Safe.
Kupec stressed that Arrive Safe is designed for those who are headed home. "It's a ride home. It's not intended for bar hopping," he said.
Arrive Safe is part of AAA's mission to promote traffic safety, Kupec said.
"Be responsible, and if you've had too much to drink, let Arrive Safe give you a free ride home. Better yet, plan ahead and recruit a designated driver."