In battle against drunken driving, a new bid for awareness

Courtesy of Arlington Police Department - The Ford Crown Victoria is a visual warning about drunk driving with a police car facade in the front and a taxicab in the back.

People have almost become immune to the wrecked cars displayed in front of police stations across the country warning them against driving drunk, so Arlington County police are trying another head-turner: A Ford Crown Victoria that is a county police car in the front and a yellow cab in the back.

The slogan on the car reads “Choose your ride.”

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Police plan to unveil the car, which will travel to police departments around the region, at a Tuesday morning news conference.

“It’s so stark,” said Kurt Erickson, president of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program. “It’s there to remind people they have a choice of how they get home at the end of an evening.”

The group is ramping up its message during the holiday season because 25 percent of all drunken driving fatalities across the country happen in December.

“It is one of the rare public health issues that is 100 percent preventable,” Erickson said.

The car is for display only, meaning there are no cabdrivers with arrest powers and no police officers who can pick up fares.

But officials hope it is just odd enough that it will make people take notice and plan how to get home after a night of drinking. The cab was donated and painted by Red Top Cab, and the light bar on top was donated by Arlington police.

The front of the car is emblazoned with replica patches from area police departments. The back displays the telephone number for Sober Ride, 800-200-TAXI, a program that offers free cab rides (up to $30) around the Washington region several times a year, including from Dec. 14 through New Year’s Eve.

In 2010, the Washington area had 115 fatal crashes in which the driver had a blood alcohol level of .01 or higher — the highest number in four years, according to the regional alcohol program.

Alcohol-related incidents on the road decreased from 2009 to 2010, but there were still 4,689 crashes, 2,373 injuries and 14,594 arrests.

 
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