Loss in free 'sober rides' for the Pee Dee

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - Data from the US Department of Transportation shows the number of DUI fatalities in South Carolina has decreased since last year, but some people in Florence say the absence of free sober rides may have a negative impact on those stats for this upcoming year.

This time last year you could see ads for free rides during New Years Eve from Red Bone Alley, AAA and numerous cab companies - But not this year.

AAA spokesman says they've discontinued their free tow service on New Years Eve night because they believe it was encouraging people to over-drink because they knew there was a free tow available.

Many of the owners are saying the cost is just too much to offer free services, and the support from corporate and local sponsors is low.

Jimmy Deaton owns Southern Hops Brewing Company and Restaurant in Florence, and says he understands why some restaurants and bars have discontinued their free sober rides on New Years Eve night.

He says he tried to offer the service free himself, but ran into a few obstacles.

Deaton says the cost for starting a free service includes insurance, liability and driver's pay and just couldn't fork over the whole bill.

Many cab services have discontinued their free rides during the holidays because of the loss in support from corporate and local sponsors, making it difficult to keep up with the services financially.

But help is out there, Deaton received some funding through beer and alcohol sponsorship grants, but not enough to make the rides free.

he will be offering shuttle services Saturday night at Southern Hops for a small price.

"People are gonna be disappointed if they go somewhere that last year had a shuttle service, but I would love to put out the fact that it's expensive and it's not easy to put together... Some companies don't exist anymore, they didn't make it through the economy," said Jimmy Deaton.

He says the dwindling support for free sober rides will negatively impact business on New Years Eve.

"Some of the people just aren't coming out because there's not a safe ride home and obviously, you don't want to get yourself in trouble when leaving the establishment," said Deaton.

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