December 20, 2006
Don't Drink and Drive
Taxi Drivers Offer Gratis Lifts Home
Bryan DaParma is offering a free holiday service that could save lives.
This season, merrymakers who've had a bit too much to drink and can't get behind the wheel to drive home have a savior in the form of DaParma's company, Hometown Taxi, a Southampton firm with service from East Hampton to Hampton Bays.
DaParma said a few years back the holiday initiative was sponsored by the not-for-profit organization Century Council that collected funds from liquor companies and gave it to taxi companies so they could transport individuals home safely.
Although the funding ceased a few years back, last year, Hometown Taxi picked up the tab. "Maybe someone has had too much to drink," said DaParma. "It's hard to get somebody into a car and make them pay for it. So we started taking them for free."
The service is available to those who really can't afford cab fare, said DaParma. "We don't want people taking advantage of it."
The program will run from Christmas Eve through New Year's Eve, and rides will be available free of charge within a 10-mile limit.
There was a great turnout last year, said DaParma, who is also a volunteer fireman in Southampton. "We got a couple hundred calls," and, although the project can get pricey, with Hometown Taxi absorbing the entire cost, the rewards are immeasurable. "I want to wake up the day after New Year's and when I open up the paper, see the DUI columns empty."
DaParma's company is also associated with SADD and MADD and has worked with students, providing them with the phone number of the taxi company and the fire department, and change for a phone call in case they need to get home safely.
The measure is aimed at self-protection, too. "My drivers are the ones out there at night," said DaParma. "If they're going to hit anybody, they usually hit us. It's actually a little more cost- effective to give someone a $10 ride home."
Hometown Taxi, in business at its current location since 2001, includes a fleet of 10 cars and several vans.
The best part of the program, said DaParma, is the community response. "A lot of people just sent letters saying thank you for the rides home and for doing this." He added, "I just want everyone to get home safe for the holidays. I want them to spend time with their families, and not wind up in the hospital, or in jail, or anything worse."
For more information, or to get a ride home over the holidays, call 287-5200 in Southampton; 329-0011 in East Hampton; 725-6969 in Sag Harbor; and 728-9300 in Hampton Bays.