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Police, businesses want safe New Year's

December 30, 2005|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

tiffanya@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - A lot goes on in the back seat of a cab.

"A lot of it can't even be printed in your paper," veteran cabbie Randy Oldham said. "From propositions, to being flashed, to people passing out in your back seat and having to call the police, to having to extract a fare from someone that intoxicated - that can be fun."

Still, Oldham, owner of CoTran cab company, said he's grateful that those people were inside his cab and not behind a steering wheel. He said that was the reason he decided to offer people free rides on New Year's Eve.

"I plan on being a part of this community," Oldham said. "I want to keep drunk drivers off the streets."

Numerous studies from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cite alcohol as the leading cause of traffic fatalities. The National Safety Council recently named Maryland as the ninth deadliest state in the nation for alcohol-related fatalities.

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With all the drinking going on during the New Year's Eve weekend, business and law enforcement agencies are going out of their way to make sure everyone has a safe holiday.

CoTran is giving free rides to New Year's Eve partiers from any in-town tavern to their homes. The service will be offered from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Bartenders are asked to phone in the rides, Oldham said.

Maryland State Police and the Hagerstown Police departments are beefing up patrols on New Year's Eve. The Hagerstown Police department will be doubling the number of officers on duty for New Year's Eve, Sgt. Johnny Murray of the Hagerstown Police Department said.

The city police also will activate saturation patrols, which feature officers who specifically target drunken drivers, Murray said.

Darryl Sword, co-owner of The Corner Pub in Hagerstown, said fear of drunk drivers has kept people away from his pub on New Year's Eve. While an average night brings in around 200 people, Sword said they'll be happy if they get 100 on New Year's Eve.

Like any good bartender, Sword said he knows when to stop serving. Saying "no more drinks" to people who are visibly drunk works most times, Sword said.

"The others," he said. "They want to argue, well, we'll put it that way. But the best part of it? That same individual will come back the next day and say, 'Your judgment was right on that one. I apologize.'"

Maryland law requires any establishment that sells alcohol to have at least one employee who has been certified in an "Alcohol Awareness" training program - a certified drunk person detector, so to speak.

The training programs are approved by the state comptroller's office.

In Washington County, the certified employee has to be around whenever alcohol is being sold or served. In other counties, that person does not have to be present.

The Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association offers the "Alcohol Awareness" program, which costs $55 to $65, said Robin Cordani, an MSLBA official.

Cordani said servers are trained to pick up on the telltale signs of drunkenness, such as slurred speech and lack of coordination.

Tammy Sword, a bartender at The Broad Axe in Hagerstown, who is certified in intoxication observation, said they are also taught to pay close attention to the person's body type and whether that person has had any food.

Tammy Sword - who is not related to Darryl Sword - said patrons who've had too much are discreetly escorted to the door.

Once they've left the bars, Oldham said he's more than willing to give them rides home - even the belligerent ones, he said.

"You have to remind yourself that it's only a five-minute drive," Oldham said. "It's Hagerstown. Everywhere in Hagerstown takes five minutes."

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