THE REGION

Free Rides for Impaired Drivers

Various Washington area cab companies will offer free taxi rides tonight to people too impaired to drive. The effort is coordinated by the Washington Regional Alcohol Program.

The Fourth of the July is the nation's deadliest holiday for drunken driving accidents, program President Kurt Gregory Erickson said. Nearly half of all Independence Day traffic fatalities in 2002 were alcohol-related.

"The fact is that in 2002 in this country, more people were killed by drunk drivers on July 4th than during that same year's St. Patrick's Day, Halloween, Christmas and New Year's Eve holidays combined," Erickson said.

From 4 p.m. today to 4 a.m. tomorrow, impaired drivers can call 800-200-TAXI for a free ride home for fares that would be $50 or less. AT&T Wireless customers can dial #TAXI.

The alcohol program has been operating a SoberRide program since 1993, providing nearly 26,000 free cab rides to impaired drivers.

THE DISTRICT

7 Hurt in Metro Van Accident

Seven people were injured yesterday in a crash involving a MetroAccess van.

Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said the van and a car collided about 11 a.m. at South Capitol Street and Southern Avenue. He said two people in the van and five people in the car were hurt.

MetroAccess vans provide curb-to-curb transportation for the disabled.

Man Found Fatally Shot in SE

D.C. police are investigating the shooting death of a Fort Washington man.

Police said they found the body of Anthony Brown, 22, after 3 a.m. yesterday in the 500 block of Mellon Street in Southeast Washington. Brown had been shot in the head, they said.

No arrests have been made in the case, authorities said.

VIRGINIA

Politician Sentenced in Bribery

Former Richmond City Council member Gwen C. Hedgepeth was sentenced Friday to 44 months in federal prison for taking $2,500 in bribes for her votes on two council appointments.

U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson scolded Hedgepeth for selling her vote and breaching the public's trust. "There is no question you have tarnished the reputation of this city," Hudson said.

On April 2, a jury found Hedgepeth guilty on three bribery charges and one charge of lying to the FBI. She resigned from the council three days later.

During the trial, prosecutors presented secretly recorded video of Hedgepeth taking money from Robert O. Davis Jr., a developer and landlord who was convicted of fraud and arson in 1981.

Davis, who was working as a witness for the FBI, gave her $500 in January 2003 to vote for a council member whom he and others wanted to be mayor. He gave her an additional $2,000 last July to support a candidate for appointment to the 6th District council seat.

Va. Pilot Dies in Arkansas Crash

An Alexandria man was identified yesterday as the sole fatality in a small-plane crash Friday in Hot Springs National Park in central Arkansas.

Park rangers said pilot Larry Sanders, 54, was the only person on the plane, which struck a mountain. The rangers said that Sanders was scheduled to land at 10:16 a.m. at Hot Springs Memorial Field and that a search party discovered the plane about 6 p.m.

Preliminary information from the National Transportation Safety Board indicated that Sanders was flying a Piper PA-32-300 and was en route from Springfield, Ky.

NTSB spokesman Paul Schlamm said Sanders was flying using instrument flight rules, indicating that visibility was poor. Rangers said the area had heavy rain Friday.

Effort to Save Rare Cedar

A small logging operation to save a sliver of Atlantic white cedar trees could be a prelude to the most significant forest restoration effort in the 30-year history of the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Virginia.

Since late winter, refuge officials have overseen logging on about 100 acres of white cedar forest damaged by Hurricane Isabel. The white cedar is especially vulnerable to high winds because of its shallow roots.

The felled trees are a wildfire threat, officials said, and smother any chance for seeds to sprout new Atlantic white cedar.

The refuge's 13,000 acres of Atlantic white cedar represent about 5 percent to 10 percent of the world's total, refuge manager Lloyd Culp said.

"Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking. It's not political. It's what we do for someone who has given their life."

-- Air Force Chaplain Robert Cannon, who blesses the coffins of many soldiers killed in the Iraq war as they arrive at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. -- Page A1

Compiled from reports by staff writer Tom Jackman and the Associated Press.