By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
AAA Oklahoma will offer its free Tipsy Tow community service for year-end holiday partiers again this year. The program gives intoxicated drivers a better option than getting behind the wheel and creating a danger for themselves and others.
AAA is urging holiday partiers to call the auto club if they have had too much to drink and feel unsafe behind the wheel. “Tipsy Tow,” AAA Oklahoma’s community service program, will give up to two people and their vehicle a ride home at no charge, no questions asked.
“Last year, about 893,000 Oklahomans traveled over the holidays,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “This year, a 1.4 percent increase would mean more than 905,000 of us will be driving or flying. The prospect of lower gasoline prices and better weather is apparently too much for many Oklahomans to resist.”
These travel numbers mark the highest forecast growth rate for year-end holidays since 2009 and the highest travel volume on record for the holiday period, AAA reports.
According to Mai, based on past year’s data, AAA is ready to come to the rescue of more than 1.1 million motorists nationwide, including 7,900 in Oklahoma, during what AAA defines as the holiday period, Tuesday, Dec. 23 to Sunday, Jan. 4.
Tipsy Tow is open to everyone, AAA members and non-members alike, in metropolitan Oklahoma City, metropolitan Tulsa, Muskogee, Enid, Lawton, Shawnee, Bartlesville, Tahlequah and Ardmore from 6 p.m. Friday, December 18 to 4 a.m. Saturday, January. 2.
“We’re aware that over holidays, people tend to drink more alcohol than at other times,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma.
“AAA wants Oklahomans to know there’s an alternative to climbing behind the wheel and perhaps getting into a crash. We’re geared up for a busy 15 days of providing Tipsy Tows over Christmas and New Year’s; we hope we get lots of calls.
“Each year in Oklahoma, 35 percent of all traffic crashes involve drugs or alcohol,” said Mai. “Over the holidays, that number often jumps to more than 40 percent.
“This annual community service works because it brings attention to the dangers of drinking and driving beyond just giving a drunk driver a safe ride home,” said Mai.
“We’re promoting not just Tipsy Tow but also the use of designated drivers and a caring attitude and heightened awareness among drivers across Oklahoma.”
According to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, every day almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 51 minutes.
Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel said, “I urge people to be responsible if their plans include alcohol during the holidays.
“Those who drink and drive will be arrested and jailed, hopefully before they have the opportunity to injure or kill an innocent person or family who wind up as an unintended target,” Whetsel added. “Celebrate responsibly and enjoy the holidays.”
The top reasons for these calls to AAA Oklahoma are expected to be for a tow, because of a dead battery and to service members who have locked their keys in their vehicle.
AAA’s digital tools for travel planning-on-the-go include the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Travelers can use the app to map a route, find current gas prices and discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.
To access the service, call 800-222-4357 (AAA-HELP) and request a Tipsy Tow. AAA will come get you and your vehicle and give you a free tow within a 15-mile radius of point of pickup. However, there’s only place AAA will take you, and that’s home.
A not-for-profit organization, AAA Oklahoma serves its 390,000 members across Oklahoma with emergency help on the road, auto travel assistance and a wide range of personal insurance, travel, financial and automotive services through branch offices, a regional operations center and the Internet at AAA.com.