MYRTLE BEACH — For the 11th year, Diamond Cab drivers will offer a free ride home to Myrtle Beach area residents who have had too much to drink during the holidays and area law enforcement officials say that using such services will help keep people safe this season.
The Sober Ride program began 11 years ago after a drunk driver hit one of the drivers of then Beachside Cab, said Josh Rauzi, general manager for Diamond Cab.
“We don’t want to see anybody go through that same kind of pain,” said Rauzi, who also noted his father died while drinking and driving. Rauzi was 13 and was placed in foster care afterwards.
“It means a lot to me to help prevent anybody else going through the same thing I did,” Rauzi said.
The program runs through New Year’s and is free to anyone who drives to a party or bar and drinks, but it’s not just a free ride.
“It’s not a free ride for everybody. It’s a free ride if you’ve driven yourself to a party or bar and have been drinking. The program is designed to keep people from drinking and driving,” Rauzi said.
The program will resume for the Super Bowl in January.
Area police said anything to keep residents and visitors from drinking and driving is a good thing for the community.
“A free ride home when you are out celebrating is not only safer than getting behind the wheel of a car after you have been drinking, it is also much cheaper than a DUI,” Horry County police Sgt. Robert Kegler said.
Local police and troopers from the S.C. Highway Patrol plan to increase their patrols in an effort to prevent DUI related crashes this holiday season.
“We always think about Christmas and New Year’s but the college bowl games create a lot of party atmosphere so those [patrols and road checks] will go on after New Year’s,” said Lance Cpl. Sonny Collins with the Highway Patrol. “When the cab companies are willing to do that, there’s no excuse to be behind the wheel drinking and driving. Plan ahead. If you know you’re going to a party and consume alcohol plan ahead of how you’re going to get home.”
As of Thursday, there had been 754 fatal crashes in the state, which was one less than the same period last year, according to the S.C. Department of Public Safety. In those crashes this year 809 people were killed, five fewer than last year.
In Horry County, 46 people had been killed through Sunday, which is six fewer than the same period last year, according to officials. In Georgetown there had been 13 fatalities so far this year through Sunday, which was eight more than the same period last year.
For the holidays, Sober Ride is sponsored by Better Brands, Yahanis Company and Weekly Surge, but Rauzi said they are talking with sponsors about making it a year-around effort.
“It’s open to anybody that wants to utilize the program as long as they’ve driven themselves to a bar or party . . . and we’ll take them home,” Rauzi said. “We’ll give them their keys back when we get them home. We want to save as many lives as we can.”
Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723.