Drunken driving campaign targets downtown Sacramento

tbizjak@sacbee.comDecember 20, 2012 

4M20DUI

A campaign to discourage drunken driving uses a vehicle that is half police car and half taxi. Which would you rather ride in? Bar patrons will be asked that in coming days.

CALIFORNIA OFFICE OF TRAFFIC SAFETY

Starting tonight in Sacramento and three other California cities, holiday revelers will see an odd, potentially sobering vehicle parked in front of popular bars and nightspots.

The vehicle's front half will look like a blue and white police car. "This ride costs up to $10,000," lettering on the front door reads, referencing the potential long-term costs of a drunken driving citation. The back half, painted orange and black, looks like a taxi. "This ride costs $40," its door reads.

The vehicles are the latest tool in a state and national campaign to encourage people in their 20s and 30s to think twice before drinking and driving.

Sponsored by the state Office of Traffic Safety, the cars will be stationed this weekend and next at a half-dozen downtown and midtown spots: Mix Club, Dive Bar, the Shady Lady, Harlow's, O'Malleys and Head Hunters.

They will be accompanied by a team of young marketing professionals who will chat on the sidewalk with bar-goers about having a designated driver or calling a taxi.

Downtown Sacramento was chosen, along with locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, because this city has one of the highest drunken-driving crash rates in the state. There were 774 people killed in California last year in alcohol-related crashes. Alcohol-related crash and death rates are highest among drivers in their 20s.

"We're really trying to engage the young bar crowd," said state traffic safety office spokesman Chris Cochran. "To get the point across that DUI is dangerous and illegal, and they should be figuring out how to get a safe ride home."

The trained safety team will help inebriated people call taxis, but will not engage in police enforcement, Cochran said. The effort is part of a larger two-year-old "RUOK?" campaign, funded by federal transportation safety grants.

State officials have distributed 750,000 coasters and restroom mirror stickers to bars statewide. The coasters have bizarre questions printed on one side, such as, "Can you insure against alien abduction?" and a response on the other: "That is just as ridiculous as asking your drunk friend: RUOK to drive?"

The statewide holiday DUI program will include an increased law enforcement focus on pulling over drunken drivers, including sobriety checkpoints.

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