WASHINGTON – Halloween night revelers can save a few dollars and possibly a few lives on their ride home this year thanks to a free taxi service provided by an area nonprofit group.
The Washington Regional Alcohol Program will sponsor its first Halloween SoberRide, a free taxi service, for party goers who feel unfit to drive themselves home between 7 p.m. Thursday and 3 a.m. Friday.
“We think it’s a good investment,” said Tim Kime, WRAP executive director. “There’s no reason for drinking and driving.”
With a simple call to a toll free number, 1-800-200-TAXI, drinkers can request a free ride to their homes anywhere in the Washington metropolitan area, including Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland; the city of Alexandria and Arlington, Loudon and Prince William counties in Virginia; and Washington, D.C.
Halloween is becoming one of the major celebration nights of the year, Kime said.
Area bars and the Washington Metropolitan Police are bracing themselves for the increased crowds.
“We expect a large influx of people coming [into the city],” said Officer Robert Garisto, Metropolitan Police spokesman. “We will have extra patrols on the street.”
WRAP will pay the tab on the free rides. During past holidays the organization paid about $2,000 a night to participating cab companies for their services, Kime said.
Six cab companies will be on call to handle the requests.
“It’s become a very large task,” said George Pakidis, vice president of operations at Red Top Cabs of Arlington. “But we’re prepared to turn around and treat it” as a major holiday.
Red Top Cabs began working with WRAP 15 years ago, when the organization started the first free ride program during the winter holidays, from Dec. 21 through New Year’s Day. Red Top provides free telephone service and serves as the main switchboard for the calls.
“It’s a very beneficial program,” Pakidis said. “It pushes people who are on the fence on drunk driving [to take a cab].”
Since its inauguration in 1981, the free ride program has expanded to offer rides during the most celebrated holidays. WRAP offers rides on the Fourth of July, St. Patrick’s Day, Labor Day and now Halloween.
But Kime said he wants the free rides to expand.
“”We’d like to see [rides offered on] Super Bowl Sunday and Memorial Day,” Kime said. But, he said, “it’s a funding issue.”
This year’s Halloween rides are sponsored by the Washington Area New Automobile Association, AT&T and Cellular One. In addition, WRAP has worked closely with the Maryland State Highway Administration, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and the D.C. Public Works Department to win federal grants to promote its various programs, Kime said.
WRAP advocates safe and responsible drinking year-round. It gives speeches on underage drinking to local high schools during prom season and tries to present alternative ways to have fun. “It’s an ongoing process,” Kime said. “We want people to be responsible.” -30-