Santa Claus may have finished watching who's been naughty and who's been nice, but the state police are still on the lookout for those who insist on being naughty by drinking and driving over the New Year's weekend.
"Troopers will be concentrating on drunk drivers throughout the state today and the next couple of days," said 1st Sgt. Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman in Pikesville.
"We know drinking and driving definitely increases during this holiday."
Beefed-up patrols will include state police administrators who don't normally go out on the road, he said.
"In Carroll County, troopers will concentrate on the county roads as well as the main roads," Sergeant Shipley said. "We'll be aggressively watching for drunk drivers."
For those who have had too much to drink and feel they can't safely make it home, several businesses are offering a variety of services for partying travelers.
Becker's Towing Service of Westminster will tow imbibers home free of charge, any time today through midnight tomorrow, preferably within a 10-mile radius of the city.
"If they're at a bar or a party and feel they've had too much to drink, they can call us and we'll take them home," said manager Mike Becker. "But it has to be to their residence and the car has to be operable. Otherwise, they're responsible for the towing."
The idea of the free towing is to get drunken drivers off the road before something happens, not after, he said.
Mr. Becker said three tow trucks and drivers will be on standby to take calls today and tomorrow.
This is the fourth year Becker's has participated in the Towing and Recovery Association of America's TOWED program (Towing Operators Working to Eliminate Drunk Driving), even though response in the past has been low.
"People are getting scared of the penalties for drunk driving," Mr. Becker said.
To contact Becker's, call 848-8855 or 857-9757.
If you prefer a cab, Carroll County Cab Company in Woodbine will be open all night through the morning hours Saturday to take people home for the normal fees. The phone number is 795-8311.
Party-goers with reservations to spend the night at the Comfort Inn or Days Inn in Westminster may take advantage of free shuttle bus service between the motels, the EnterTRAINment Line on Railroad Avenue and Martin's Gala in the 140 Village Shopping Center.
"The shuttle starts at 8 p.m. tonight and runs till 3 a.m. every 10 to 15 minutes," said Janice Shaw, the Comfort Inn's director of sales. "This is the third year we've done this, and it's very successful because people are concerned about roadblocks and other things on the road."
To accommodate their patrons, the two motels have rented a 46-passenger bus from Rill's Bus Service. The bus will go from the Comfort Inn to the Days Inn, to the EnterTRAINment Line, then to Martin's and back to the motel.
The Comfort Inn also offers a continental breakfast the morning of Jan. 1, Ms. Shaw said.
"We get a lot of groups, several couples, and they like that chance to relax and visit before starting home," she said, adding that both motels were fully booked as of yesterday.
For those who want to try to make it on their own, the threSheetz convenience stores in Carroll County are offering free hot coffee from 4 p.m. today till 4 p.m. tomorrow.
"They can get any size cup they want -- they can even bring in a thermos," said Barbara Forney, a cashier at the Taneytown store.
The three Sheetz stores are at 226 E. Baltimore St., Taneytown; 3281 Main St., Manchester; and 304 E. Main St., Westminster.
To cope with accidents or other illnesses, Carroll County GeneraHospital's emergency room will have additional nurses and doctors on call between noon and midnight today.
"We do see an increase in alcohol-related admissions," said Gill Chamblin, the hospital's director of public relations. "New Year's Eve is considered one of our busiest days of the year, when we see close to 90 patients."
The emergency room normally sees about 65 patients in a 24-hour period, she said.
When patients who have been drinking are brought in, they are given intravenous fluids and vitamins, as well as a talk about what's happened to them.
"We send them home with instructions on what to do to follow up, and we urge counseling," Ms. Chamblin said.