So far, bringing out the LAPD’s “Paddy Wagon” on St. Patrick’s Day is working, said Officer Tom Souza, who came up with the idea of bringing drunken celebrants home safely five years ago.
“Everywhere we’ve had the Paddy Wagon, we have not had a fatal, alcohol-related collision,” said Souza, who is with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Traffic Division.
Souza started the “Paddy Wagon” program after realizing there was no safe alternative for someone who had drunk too much to get home.
Other cities across the country and the world have reliable rapid transit systems, but Los Angeles has none, he said. “What else do you have besides walking home?”
The LAPD and Budget Rent A Car of Southern California are sponsoring the fifth annual St. Patrick’s Day “Paddy Wagon” program today.
More than 400 bars and restaurants around the city will take part. Patrons who dial 800-70-PADDY between 8 p.m and 2 a.m. will get a free ride home. Last year, about 250 people took advantage of the service, about twice the number as in 1993.
The program was made citywide for the first time last year, and Souza said that is the reason there were no fatal drunk-driving accidents in the city of Los Angeles on St. Patrick’s Day in 1994.
Vans will take revelers home from any location in the city, either from a bar, restaurant, or a party at a residence. Trips are typically limited to a seven-mile radius, however, he said. And, anyone who becomes belligerent will not be given a ride.
No one needing a ride will be arrested, Souza said.
Police have also organized a Cinco de Mayo “Paddy Wagon” program on May 5, another popular drinking holiday.