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Published: Jul 03, 2014 5 min read
Handing Over the Keys.
Jacom Stephens—Getty Images/Vetta

The Fourth of July is right up there on the list of America's drunkest holidays, with fireworks shows and beach parties beckoning revelers to celebrate into the wee hours of the morning. By most accounts, it's also the deadliest day of the year on the roads, with an average of 127 people dying in car crashes every Fourth of July.

As if that's not enough to encourage you to plan ahead and find a safe way home during the holidays, the cost of a DUI conviction could easily run $20,000 or more for a first-time offender. Also, bear in mind that extra state and local police will be working over the weekend, with efforts including but not limited to an increase in random checkpoints for drivers under the influence, among other offenses.

So please, for a million different reasons, don't do something as stupid as getting behind the wheel when you shouldn't. There's really no excuse.

To help keep drunk drivers off the road, the AAA Holiday Safe Ride Program amazingly offers free rides, as well as a car tow, to anyone who has had too much to drink on a major holiday and shouldn't be behind the wheel. It's not necessary to be a AAA member; anyone can use the program to get a safe ride home.

The service is rolled out on all the major party holidays and drinking occasions, including New Year's, St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, Super Bowl Sunday, and, of course, Independence Day. New Year's sees the biggest demand by far for the service, and the Fourth of July is generally the second-most popular day for drivers under the influence in need of a free tow and ride home.

Heather Hunter, director of AAA public relations, is quick to point out that not every AAA club around the country is participating. And those that do—in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Florida, New Mexico, Texas, southern California, and elsewhere—want drivers to know they should think of the program "definitely as the service of last resort," cautions Hunter. For many reasons, "You're much better off if you can plan in advance for a safe ride."

The association does not have national statistics on how many drivers actually use the service, which is known by different names like "Tipsy Tow" and "Tow to Go" in different parts of the country. One of the few branches that does provide data regarding its free holiday towing service, AAA Arizona, says that it has given free rides and tows on holidays to roughly 500 drivers over the last three years. "That's 500 drunk drivers we've kept off the roads," says Linda Gorman, AAA Arizona's public affairs director. "We're proud of that."

Regional clubs around the country vary in terms of what's allowed and not allowed with the service. AAA Arizona gives a free one-way ride to one person only, anytime from 6 p.m. on July 4 to 6 a.m. the following morning, and the person's car can be towed a maximum of 10 miles. "This isn't a taxi," Gorman clarifies. "The driver will only take you home. You can't get a ride to the next party or another bar."

In addition to AAA's brilliant service, there are plenty of other ways to get home safely after a party. Like a taxi. Or a designated driver. The latter could be a buddy, or a stranger for that matter. The nonprofit DrinkingandDriving.org keeps a list of designated driver services around the country, and at last check it had 615 possibilities in 46 states on file.

One of the more interesting recent developments in the world of drunk-driving prevention is the rise of anti-DUI apps such as BeMyDD and services like Shuttle Dudes, which allow impaired drivers to hire someone to pick them up—and drive their car to boot. The safe driver might come in a scooter or bike, which he'll fold up and put in the trunk of the customer's car.

Hiring someone to pick up your car and drive it (and you) home generally costs somewhere in the range of $15 to $30. A taxi probably runs around the same, more or less, and you can split that with friends who also shouldn't be driving. No matter what the price, it's nothing compared to the potential costs of driving drunk.