Cab vouchers for about-to-be-drunk drivers - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Cab vouchers for about-to-be-drunk drivers

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It's crime that is easily avoided but impaired driving continues to haunt local communities, as drunk drivers insist on getting behind the wheel. Soon, they can get in the back seat of a cab - and not have to pay for the ride.

Mecklenburg County ABC Board is hoping the program will make a dent in drunk driving.

"This is all about making the streets safer" says Mary Ward, Community Relations Director for Mecklenburg County ABC Board.

The program is called "indi - or I'm not driving impaired" and is set to begin at the end of January and run throughout the year.

ABC officers will watch people leaving bars and establishments and stop those who appear to be drunk *before* they get behind the wheel.

"The officer is going to say I really think you need to think about the decision you're getting ready to make getting behind the wheel of the car. Let's talk about finding a safe way home" says Ward.

If the person has no other way to get home safely, the officer will call a cab. ABC Board says there's a partnership with three cab companies - Royal, Crown, and City. The officer will give the cab driver a voucher to pay for the person's ride home.

The cab company submits the voucher to Mecklenburg County ABC Board for reimbursement.

There's no limit to the cost of the cab ride.

Ward says the Board has set aside $5,000 to pay for cab rides. The program is county-wide and will cover 2,237 establishments with permits to serve alcohol on the premises.

Ward says "the program will be run in geographic quadrants around the county throughout the year" and officers will rotate coverage while handling other law enforcement duties.

'Indi' was a pilot program for a couple of months in 2013. ABC officers focused on establishments in Uptown Charlotte. Ward says officers handed out 16 vouchers that totaled less than $300, and made contact with an additional 75 people who found safe alternative rides.

The ABC Board decided to run the program for a full year.

"The impact it makes when somebody makes the choice to not get behind the wheel of a car is huge" says Ward. "Because you take that from police involvement, court system tying up with a DWI charge and the cost associated with that. Plus the fact that if they injure themselves or someone else in the community."

According to online records for the North Carolina Court System, between July 2011 and June 2012: 4,258 impaired driving cases were filed in Mecklenburg County Courts.

From July 2012 to June 2013 - the number dropped to 3,661.

Ward says the voucher program is not designed to replace DWI checkpoints or any other law enforcement initiatives.

"We're on the prevent side using officers to make connections with people who are on the verge of getting behind the wheel and saying do you want to think about the decision you're getting ready to make - find a safe way home - and if you don't have that safe alternative we'll see that you get home" says Ward.

Would be drivers don't have to take the cab ride.

Ward says "the person has the right to refuse the cab ride.  However, if they get behind the wheel of a car, the officer will pull them over and go through the normal field sobriety tests to determine if they can be charged with a DWI." 


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