Across Colorado this New Year’s Eve weekend, free rides and increased police patrols aim to keep drunk drivers off the road. Denver7 has details for how you can plan ahead for safety while ringing in the new year.
“If you have a plan before you go out, then it's easier for you to stick to that plan,” said Kimberly Mowat, who works with Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Colorado, where 1 out of every 3 traffic deaths involved an impaired driver.
Last year, seven people were killed on Colorado roads during the New Year’s Eve weekend. That’s the highest reported since 2016, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).
Mowat knows firsthand the consequences when someone gets behind the wheel drunk. This week marks 31 years since her parents, Theresa and Newt, were killed by a drunk driver.
“It still, 31 years later, affects me. And I'm sure it will forever,” she said.
She was 6 years old, her brother 9, and her family was headed home after a shopping trip. Her father spotted a group of teenagers on the side of the road and stopped to offer help.
"They were standing outside talking with the group of five teenagers, and my brother and I were in the car, when a drunk driver came around the corner,” Mowat said. “She never attempted to even break and she plowed right through my parents and the teenagers.”
Her parents and one of the teenagers died.
Mowat said growing up without her parents was lonely.
"I didn't have my mom there for my wedding or birth of my children, or my dad to walk me down the aisle,” she said. “But the drunk driver walked away that night without a single injury.”
Mowat said the driver was a repeat offender. On the night of the deadly crash, she had fought with her boyfriend at a party and decided to drive home even though she’d been drinking.
“You can be drunk without really knowing it. And I guess that night, the drunk driver said she didn't feel drunk. She'd only had a few beers,” Mowat said. “Because of her decision, I have to live with it for the rest of my life.”
To cope with her loss, Mowat became determined to make her parents proud and save the lives of others.
“My hope is that when someone gets behind the wheel of a car, they can imagine a 6-year-old child sitting there, the morning after the crash, hearing that her parents weren't ever coming home again,” she said.
She recommends making a plan before you drink – whether that’s coordinating with a designated driver, calling a cab, catching a bus or using a rideshare service.
This weekend on the Front Range, RTD is partnering with Molson Coors to offer free bus and train rides from 7 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2023 through 7 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2024.
If you’d rather take a cab or a use a rideshare service like Lyft or Uber, several law firms are offering reimbursement for your ride. Anywhere in Colorado, you can get a ride home, pay the driver and send the bill to the Wilhite Law Firm for reimbursement of up to $35. The McDivitt Law Firm is also offering free cab rides home to residents in Colorado Springs and Pueblo.
If you’re ringing in the new year in the mountains, free transportation may also be available. Avon Transit will have a free Tipsy Taxi service offering passengers a free ride home within Town limits between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. on New Year’s Eve. Breckenridge Free Ride will offer service until just after 1 a.m.
If you’re tempted to drive buzzed, remember that between Dec. 28, 2023 and Jan. 3, 2024, law enforcement agencies are increasing patrols to catch drunk drivers. Last year, state and local police arrested 168 Coloradans for driving under the influence during the New Year’s Eve enforcement period.
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CDOT also offers these tips for staying safe this weekend:
Plan to Drink?
- Plan a sober ride home before heading out.
- Consider getting a sober ride to your destination so you won’t be tempted to later drive impaired. Options available include taxis, Uber, Lyft and public transit.
- If you have a designated driver, ensure they are truly sober, not simply more sober than you are. Buzzed driving is still drunk driving.
- If you’re ever unsure whether you are safe to drive, always err on the side of caution and find a sober ride home.
Hosting a Party?
- Encourage your guests to designate a sober driver or plan for a safe ride home before heading over.
- Create an Uber or Lyft group ride code for your party and share with your guests.
- Provide plenty of food and non-alcoholic drinks and encourage your guests to bring their favorites to keep everyone fed and hydrated throughout the party.
- Don’t forget that, as a host, if you serve a guest alcohol and he or she gets in a crash, you could be held liable.
- Offer guests a night on your couch if a sober ride home is unavailable.
Are You the Designated Driver?
- If you’re driving, do not drink. Your responsible choice can save lives.
- Offer safe rides to those who may not have prepared a sober ride home.
- Buckle up for safety and require all your passengers to do the same when it’s time to head home.