Taxis Against Drunk Driving has national ambitions | ParkRecord.com

Taxis Against Drunk Driving has national ambitions

ANNA BLOOM Of the Record staff

Enjoy a drink, but don’t drive is the motto of Park City’s charitable taxi service Taxis Against Drunk Driving (T.A.D.D.).

The year-old organization that has bused nearly 300 bar hoppers home at night and returned them to their parked car in the morning is revving-up its campaign. T.A.D.D. Executive Director Audie Wheeler recently filed for nonprofit status that will likely be finalized early next year, and has ambitions to take the concept to a national level, he says.

"We’re currently talking with city councils in other small towns relatively close to Park City like Sun Valley, Jackson Hole, Vail and Steamboat," Wheeler confirms.

As a cab driver for Park City’s Advanced Transportation Services, Wheeler has witnessed how dangerous the streets can be at midnight, watching intoxicated people stumble into their cars to drive home, he says.

"One, I’m thinking, ‘he’s going to run into me later,’ and two, ‘why is this guy doing that?’ It started to eat away at me witnessing all these over-served people driving away," he said. "Why weren’t they taking taxis?"

So Wheeler began to offer his friends and family members free rides, and as interest grew he says he began to wonder why he couldn’t provide the service for everyone.

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"The difficult decision people have to make is how to get back the next morning, so they roll the dice and get behind the wheel because they need their car in the morning," he observes.

Wheeler chose to make the morning ride free and charge a $10 flat fee for the ride home, no matter what distance.

T.A.D.D. operates approximately 10 vehicles with 20 drivers through Advanced Transportation, who also initially absorbed the costs of the service. The T.A.D.D. model works with existing cab companies, Wheeler explained, paying drivers to make the extra runs. Initially, Advanced Transportation absorbed the cost of T.A.D.D., he said, but now there are several local donors who help fund the service. Eventually, through grants and donations, he would like the entire service to be free of charge, Wheeler says.

"We know people might abuse the system [if it’s free], so we’re probably going to ask people to show us their keys first," he said. "There are more checks and balances we could put into place, but the way we look at it, even though he’s abusing the system, we’re still keeping an over-served person off the street and we got him home."

Towing has also posed a challenge for the organization, especially between the Park City Winter no-parking hours between 2 and 6 a.m. and Wheeler says that he is currently working with the city to develop a system so that people aren’t penalized for making the responsible choice of not driving home and calling T.A.D.D. instead.

According to T.A.D.D. Development Director Marty Ogburn, so far there is no particular demographic group that has taken advantage of the service users have been from all walks of life and backgrounds.

Ogburn, an old friend of Wheeler’s, moved back to Park City to take the nonprofit to the next level after retiring from the women’s apparel industry in Atlanta, Georgia.

"What I’m doing this for is for personal satisfaction," he explained. "I just think it’s a service that can benefit my fellow man and I’m really happy to be doing it."

Ogburn says in his early days, he was very fortunate. Sometimes he’d get home after drinking at bars and didn’t even know how he got there, he claims.

He’s also experienced the other side: 27 years ago, a drunk driver killed two dear friends of his, he said. Victims of drunk driving incidents, he notes, are typically the sober, innocent parties.

"The feeling for me personally is, if I can keep one person from being maimed, injured or killed, I’ll leave a little footprint on this Earth when I leave," he said.

Though T.A.D.D. has stocked its flyers in more than 100 locations around town, Ogburn and Wheeler say they would like to see even more visibility, and have plans to create key chain attachments with their number on it, to remind people there is an alternative to drinking and driving.

Drunk driving is a huge issue in Park City and everywhere, according to Wheeler. All you need to do is sit in a car at midnight on a Friday night and watch people tumble into their car and get behind the wheel.

But people should still feel comfortable indulging this holiday season, according to Wheeler.

"What we want to do is be a proactive way to allow people to still enjoy themselves in this country," he said. "We think it’s O.K. for adults to go and drink. We think it’s O.K. for an adult to intend on not drinking, have a few drinks, and then show some responsibility and take a taxi home."

For more information, to donate or to catch a ride home after a night downtown, call Taxis Against Drunk Drivers at 647-3999.