Some Maryland companies are providing free towing tonight in hopes of preventing drunken driving, which costs thousands of people their lives every year.
The 24-hour-a-day towing services, which began on Christmas Eve and last through New Year's Day, are provided to anyone who thinks he or she is too intoxicated to drive.
"We accept all calls," said Kathy Linhard, of Linhard's Towing Inc. in Hunt Valley. "Even if somebody has one drink, we'll take them. We ask no questions at all."
However, Linhard said the vehicles must be fully operable and the drivers are taken directly home. "It's only to their house, not from party to party," she said.
The Maryland towers' efforts are part of a nationwide program organized by TOWEDD Inc. -- Towing Operators Working to Eliminate Drunk Driving.
Tom Redmond, president of the Towing and Recovery Professionals of Maryland, said he hopes the program will make people realize that drinking and driving is bad and that there are alternatives to driving while intoxicated.
"The towers like to give something back to the community by helping out with safety," said Redmond, owner of Redmond's Towing, Inc. in Pasadena.
"This is a bad time for someone to have an accident," Redmond said. "We see all year long what drinking and driving can do."
In 1989, 22,415 of the 45,555 deaths on the nation's highways were alcohol-related, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported.
Also last year, police in Maryland made 36,573 DWI arrests, according to State Police.
"There's no excuse for drunk driving with us around," said Joe Ryan, president of Good Samaritan Towing Inc. in Reisterstown.
"We'd rather tow them home this way, rather than get a call early in the morning to tow them after an accident," Ryan said.
Ryan has been providing free service during the holiday season for two years now and he said he expects to receive several calls tonight. Last New Year's Eve, he towed 12 cars.
"The drivers were very grateful for us coming out," Ryan said. "It's also rewarding for our drivers to help people out like that."
Joe Linhard, president of Linhard's Towing, has advertised his service in restaurants, bars and liquor stores. In the past, bouncers have helped avoid drunken driving by calling the company for bar patrons, he said.
Linhard said the various towing companies work with each other to cover the areas throughout Maryland.
"We don't want to turn anybody away," he said.
Tow truck drivers will report drunken drivers they see on the road to police. The free towing service is not intended to advocate alcohol abuse, towers said.
The Yellow Cab Co. also has made provisions for New Year's Eve partygoers who may have too much to drink.
From 6 o'clock tonight to 6 a.m. tomorrow, Yellow Cab will provide free transportation to drivers who cannot drive safely.
Drivers must show their car keys to the cab driver and their vehicle must be on the scene, a worker said.
Whom to call
Linhard's Towing York Road 771-1040
Redmond's Towing Pasadena 437-1111
Lowry's Forest Drive Exxon Annapolis 267-8448
Odenton Shell Odenton 551-9351
Catlett's Towing Davidsonville 798-6866
Good Samaritan Towing Reisterstown 526-7443
Yellow Cab/Checker Cab Baltimore 783-2445