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Going Out to Celebrate This Holiday? Secure a Safe Ride Home

Revelers can avoid drunk-driving arrests, accidents by arranging a designated driver.

Patch file photo
Patch file photo
By John McKay

The holidays are upon us and with the time of season comes a chance to reconnect with old friends and celebrate the preceding year while anticipating the next.

For those going out, safety should be top of mind. If you're going out to celebrate and will be drinking, it's always smart to secure a designated driver before heading to the bar. 

Aside from the inherent safety risks of drinking and driving, penalties for drivers who get caught driving after drinking too much can be staggering, particularly with new enhanced fines for drivers registering higher blood-alcohol levels.  

According to Michigan State Police, a motorist convicted of drunk driving can expect to face serious consequences including:

  • Up to 93 days in jail
  • Up to a $500 fine
  • Up to 360 hours of community service
  • 180 days driving suspension
  • Six points on a driver's license

In addition, they will be subject to a $1,000 fee for two consecutive years, for a total of $2,000 in additional costs. Anyone who refuses a breath test the first time is given an automatic one-year driver's license suspension. Additional fees will be assessed to drivers qualifying under Michigan's "super-drunk" laws, which apply to drivers registering a BAC of .17 percent or higher.

The easiest option for securing a sober driver is to recruit a friend who won't be drinking and can take the keys for the night. If that can't be arranged, there are several cab and designated-driver services in your area that can ensure you and your vehicle arrive home safely.

The National Directory of Designated Driver Services lists businesses and non-profit organizations who provide designated-driver services. These companies often take a "team-lift" approach, with two drivers meet you at a specified location in one vehicle. One driver drives you home in your own vehicle while the second follows and transports that driver back home after you arrive safely.

Especially given the higher demand during the holidays, early reservations are encouraged.

Dan Mehlh, owner of Waterford-based Designated Driver Services, says his company will handle any rides to or from an Oakland County community. His company uses the two-driver approach and has been in business for about 10 years.

Mehlh says securing a safe ride is a "no-brainer" to avoid stiff fines and legal woes.

"I had one of my lawyer customers tell me if you robbed a liquor store without a gun you'd have a better record than DUI," Mehlh said. Unlike the robbers, the driver could lose his or her license and face stricter fines and checkups. 

For businesses such as Mehlh's, there generally is a flat fee plus a per-mile fee for a ride, well below the fines drivers incur after a drunk-driving arrest. 

One business owner, Mark E. Messing, suggests booking a safe ride now in advance of a busy holiday for his drivers.

Messing owns two Roseville-based designated-driver companies, Safe Way Home LLC and 4 My Ride LLC, serving Oakland, Wayne, St. Clair, Livingston, Washtenaw and Macomb counties.

"Start calling and booking now," he said of arranging a safe ride. Of his 110 drivers, nearly half are booked for New Year's Eve and his business also is handling a large slate of holiday parties ahead of Christmas Day.

Here is a list of Designated Driver providers in Livingston County, according to the directory:

When in doubt, ask a bartender

If you find yourself at a bar and having consumed more drinks than you had expected and don't have a way to arrange a ride home, ask a bartender for local taxi or designated-driver services. It is in a bar's best interest to ensure its patrons arrive home safely and not wind up in an accident or in jail. 

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