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Free pickup offered for impaired drivers
Labor Day weekend usually results in more DUIs
Marvin Griffin, right, and Dustin Bland will be giving free rides to help drivers get home safely during the Labor Day weekend. Bill’s Place Inc., a local addiction recovery group, is offering the service.

Handing over your car keys may never be so easy.

This Labor Day weekend, folks who shouldn’t be driving can get home with their car, without calling a cab, a tow truck or going to jail.

The impaired driver pickup service offered free of charge by a local residential center for recovering addicts may be the first of its kind in Hall County. If a trial run Friday through Monday works as planned, the service may return for other holidays, said Vivienne Speer, director of Bill’s Place Inc., commonly known as BPI.

“We want to get at least one impaired driver off the road and get them safely home,” Speer said, noting that four impaired drivers were killed on Hall County roads in 2007.

Labor Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and New Year’s holidays typically are times when more impaired drivers are on the road, officials say.

The source of the impairment can be alcohol or drugs, Speer said. And while several of the people who will make the pickups are themselves recovering addicts, the service will not promote the group’s mission of recovery, she said.

Six drivers, several of them men active in BPI’s program, will be available to pick up impaired drivers. Working in teams of two, one driver will take the caller home in his or her own car, with a “trail” car following behind.

BPI driver Dustin Bland already made one pick up Monday night, after a patron of a Gainesville restaurant and bar heard about the service and called before it officially began.

“He understood that he couldn’t handle a DUI,” Bland said. “He was very appreciative for the ride.”

The drivers are paid by BPI for their work, but the riders don’t have to pay for the service. The only requirements are that they have a valid proof of car insurance and are too impaired to drive.

Speer said she hopes bartenders and other sober callers can be the ones providing her drivers with most of the directions over the phone.

BPI has spread the word about the service across Hall County, distributing 1,000 fliers in bars, restaurants, convenience stores and marinas. They’re targeting the 18- to 25-year-old demographic, which tends to feel more invincible behind the wheel, Speer said.

Speer said if the service is deluged with calls this weekend, she can call for backup. Several people will be on standby in the small hours of the weekend, she said.

“We’ll do our best to respond,” she said.

For a free ride for an impaired driver Friday through Monday, call 770-533-1103.