Brad Wall’s senses are hardened to the mangled messes he sees when his Marysville company, Specialty Towing, arrives at the scene of an accident.
Michael Martina/ The Herald
Michael Martina/ The Herald
He doesn’t have to prepare himself anymore. He doesn’t have to look. He doesn’t have to think about it. He’s seen it too many times.
When his son Chris Wall started in the family business eight years ago, Brad Wall advised the 19-year-old to take the same tack.
“I used to prepare him when he was younger,” Brad Wall, 50, said.
But both Walls hope that on Friday, New Year’s Eve revelers in Snohomish County who have had too much alcohol will make the right choice: to not drink and drive. The Walls would rather get called out to give a free ride home to a reveler than tow crushed vehicles to their yard after an accident.
On New Year’s Eve, five towing companies in Snohomish County will volunteer their services as part of a national program, Towing Operators Working to Eliminate Drunk Driving, known as TOWED. They will answer calls from people who have had too much to drink and can’t drive. The tow operators offer free rides home and a tow for the vehicle.
“It’s a safety precaution for our community,” said Gigi Burke, vice president of Crown Distributing, a Budweiser wholesaler based in Arlington and the company that sponsors the program. “It’s a ride home. It’s not from party to party. We want to see (people) be responsible.”
According to the Snohomish County DUI Task Force, in 2003, 43,950 people were charged with driving under the influence in Washington state.
In 2002, there was 58 traffic fatalities in Snohomish County. Twenty-five of those were alcohol related. In the same year 286 people in Washington state died in collisions that involved alcohol.
Preliminary results for 2003 show that there was a decrease in numbers with 47 traffic fatalities in Snohomish County; 14 of those were alcohol related.
Burke’s company puts up signs in local bars and taverns letting people know that TOWED is available on New Year’s Eve. Calling the tow companies is a last resort after all other resources, such as a ride home with a designated driver, have been explored, but users won’t be hassled..
“There’s no questions asked,” Burke said. “They take the person home with their vehicle.”
First and foremost is that people 21 and older who choose to drink alcohol should do so responsibly and never drink and drive, Burke said.
“However, if someone gets caught out there and cannot get home safely, these generous tow companies offer their services at no charge to help keep our roads safe.” Burke said.
Burke suggests that partygoers plan ahead and think about what method of transportation is to be used to get home if they plan to drink.
TOWED “is for someone who doesn’t have an alternative method of getting home,” Burke said. “We want to prevent anybody from drinking and driving.”
There’s no expense for people who call the tow operators and no revenue for the companies.
“They are very gracious,” Burke said. “They are volunteering their time and service at a busy time of the year for them.”
Getting home safely is the issue. Getting a ride to an event is not.
“People have called and scheduled a tow at 1:15 in the morning,” Wall said. “That’s not really how it works.”
Wall has been participating in the program for nine years. He only got two calls last New Year’s Eve.
“The tow truck companies are the ones we’re really proud of,” said Tracy McMillan, coordinator for the Snohomish County DUI Task Force.
Brad Wall goes to the awards ceremony for the DUI Task Force. He sees the mothers, fathers, friends and children of those who have been killed in alcohol related traffic accidents. He sits back and listens to why the accidents happened, what people have done to the rest of their lives and those of others. He thinks about how there are other ways, other choices.
Some have “killed and injured innocent people,” Wall said. “They live with it for the rest of their lives.”
Reporter Christina Harper: 425-339-3491 or harper@ heraldnet.com.