Tipsy Taxi: Come on and take a free ride
Aspen’s best-known drunk driving prevention program began under tragic circumstances.A vacationing family in a van heading toward Aspen one night about 22 years ago was struck head-on by a drunk driver leaving Aspen where the town’s roundabout now stands. Many people were killed.Witnesses told police they saw the drunk man’s erratic driving and didn’t know what to do.Ellen Anderson, a Pitkin County Sheriff’s deputy then and now, said that’s all it took for local police to realize they needed a simple, reliable way to keep drunken drivers off the road.”The logical solution was to offer people a better choice, and so Tipsy Taxi is a safety net,” she said. “Unfortunately, it was a horrible tragedy that was the impetus for it.”On Dec. 15, 2004, Tipsy Taxi will be 21 years old. The basic premise is this: Bartenders and police officers carry vouchers for a free taxi ride home for people who have had too much to drink.After filling out a short form with their basic information, inebriated people get a free ride from Mountain Taxi, a retrieval voucher for their car if it was towed, and a reimbursement envelope to Tipsy Taxi for a donation of any amount.No tax dollars fund Tipsy Taxi; Anderson refers to it as “a gift from the community to the community,” since it runs entirely on donations.When Tipsy Taxi started each voucher was worth only $25, but these days, with more people living downvalley, a voucher can buy a $75 ride. And if a drunk patron lives in Glenwood Springs, Anderson tells bartenders to give out two vouchers.”The basic philosophy is to make this so simple that it’s a clear decision even when a person’s judgment has been impaired,” she said.As with any free program, people occasionally abuse the system, but Anderson said this is just part of trying to save lives.”We’d rather waste a little money than have one person who needed a ride slip through the cracks,” she said. Locally, intoxicated people have died even walking home – falling and hitting their head on the pavement, or getting hypothermia while crossing a field in the winter.To contact Tipsy Taxi, call Ellen Anderson at 618-1515. Every dollar donated goes directly to taxi rides, unless the donation is specifically earmarked for another part of the program, such as printing vouchers.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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