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Tipsy Drivers to Get Free Rides Home

August 28, 1986|KAREN ROEBUCK | Times Staff Writer

Beach city residents who have had too much to drink may be able to obtain free rides home from some local bars and restaurants beginning Friday.

Three beer wholesalers are asking bars and restaurants in Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach to share taxi fares in hope of reducing drunk driving. The pilot "TaxiTime" program, which was announced Wednesday, would run through New Year's Day, said Patrick Moran, sales manager for United Checker Cab.

No bars or restaurants have committed yet, although several have expressed interest, said Betsy Simkus, coordinator of the beach cities program. Flyers explaining the program were sent to area bars and restaurants, she said.

Drunk customers will be given a coupon worth a free ride from participating establishments to any residence in the three cities. The coupons can be used only to go to a residence. TaxiTime customers will be given priority in getting a cab, Moran said.

Checker Reduces Fare

Cab fare for such a trip in the beach cities could run close to $12, but the company has agreed to a flat $5.50 fare, Moran said. Up to five people may ride on the same coupon if all are going to the same place.

Dennis P. Rouse, vice president and general manager of Checker, the only participating cab company, said he was concerned about losing profits when a similar program was proposed for the Long Beach area. He decided to try it there after three of his cabs were totaled by drunk drivers.

"If we take Mr. and Mrs. Drunk America home, that's one more kamikaze pilot that's not going to hit us," he said.

Moran said the cab company, which will have picked up an estimated 175 drunks in the Long Beach program between Memorial and Labor days, has broken even. That program will resume around Thanksgiving, he added. No one was refused the TaxiTime service in Long Beach, and the service was not abused, Rouse said.

Riders will be given a brochure listing drunk driving statistics and laws and telling the passenger where his car was left. Establishments in Long Beach have been cooperative about not towing cars, Moran said, and the same is expected in the South Bay.

Police Support Program

Customers, through experience, will learn which bars they can patronize and not have to worry about drinking and driving, Moran said.

But Andy Harrod, crime prevention officer with the Manhattan Beach Police Department, said a customer should still be cut off, even if he promises to take a cab. He may change his mind later and then would be driving even more drunk, Harrod said.

Police departments in all three cities, however, support the program. Redondo Beach Police Sgt. Paul Rossiter said drunk driving tends to be seasonal, generally peaking in the summer and near the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

Redondo police officers concentrate on curbing drunk driving in the King Harbor area where there are many accidents, he said. The beach cities were chosen for the pilot program because the area tends toattracts a lot of social activity life, said Simkus, who is public relations director for Bay Distributors. Moran and Simkus said they hope to expand the program later to other South Bay and coastal cities.

Besides Bay, Markstein and Corsaro distributing companies have committed to the program, which is also sponsored by the California Beer Wholesalers Assn.

Michael Bloss, general manager of Sausalito South in Manhattan Beach, said he was unfamiliar with the program but would be interested in learning more about it. Sausalito now pays cab fare for inebriated customers who live in the area or the Manhattan Village Shopping Center security force takes care of them, he said.

The Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach will not participate, said night manager Stephen Baker. He said employees call a cab for customers too drunk to drive, at the customer's expense.

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