TIS THE SEASON TO DRIVE SAFELY!

Main Street is dry, but many local roads are still snow-packed. Pay attention to conditions, and if you plan to drink, find a designated driver—there is currently no taxi service in Montrose.

Main Street is dry, but many local roads are still snow-packed. Pay attention to conditions, and if you plan to drink, find a designated driver—there is currently no taxi service in Montrose.

MONTROSE—(December 17, 2013)  Healthy early season snowfall has resulted in joyous prospects for skiers and snow sports enthusiasts…but for drivers in Montrose, which presently has no night-time taxi service, ‘tis the season to be aware, notes Montrose Police Chief Tom Chinn.

“The bottom line is that people really do need to learn to navigate in snow and ice,” Chinn said, “and every year we have to re-learn. And holiday times are interesting times– if you are going out and plan to consume ANY alcohol-type beverages, find someone to drive who has not had any alcohol at all.”

While holiday parties and icy conditions make sober driving essential now, “People need to be careful all year,” Chinn said. “One drink will certainly affect anyone; and with Colorado’s legal limit of .08, one mixed drink or a beer in one hour will result in a DUI.”

The cost of one arrest for Driving while Under the Influence runs between $10,000 and $15,000, he said.

“A DUI is very expensive and time consuming,” Chinn said. “A lot of people are not caught, but a lot are—and an accident that results in injury or death can be hard to live with…just some food for thought.”

Also food for thought are the sobering statistics—Montrose Police had counted 551 accidents by the end of October 2013, compared to 535 for all of 2012. In years past, celebrants who had a few too many could count on a reliable local taxi service, operated for several years by Telluride Express. Prior to that, the area was served by a private local taxi company. However, in May of 2013 Telluride Express ceased operating its local taxi service, and no provider has yet stepped in to fill the void.

Region 10 Executive Director Michelle Haynes noted that a very successful local ride program has been established in Gunnison, and could perhaps serve as a model for Montrose.

Founded in 1994 after a fatal, alcohol-related auto collision involving two Western State College students, the non-profit Safe Ride of Gunnison County, Inc. first hit the road first with a rented, 15-passenger van that operated on Friday and Saturday nights, according to the Western State Colorado University web site. Though Gunnison has a population of around 6,000, the program provided 8,000 free rides in its first year alone and today averages around 10,000 free rides per year. Today, Safe Ride operates from 7 p.m. until 2 a.m. on Wednesday nights as well, and is cooperatively run by Western State Colorado University and the Gunnison Police Department. Funding is provided through a variety of governmental sources, including the City of Gunnison and Gunnison County, according to the WSCU web site, and the WSCU student government association and local businesses contribute as well.

“It appears to be a very good service,” said Haynes, “and local bars and restaurants help pay for it—they put tip jars out to help collect donations. And it is not only for drinkers, either, but provides rides for visitors as well.”

Such an impressive community effort shows a practical recognition of the nighttime economy, she said.

“If we want people to stay and play here in Montrose, this is another service that would be appropriate to bring up here,” Haynes said. “Region 10 can help with the conversation.”

Before she joined regional Dial-A-Ride and city bus service operator All Points Transit as Executive Director earlier this year, Sharon Fipps worked for a transit agency in Corvallis, Oregon.

“In Corvallis, the busses ran until 2 a.m., to serve people who drink, night workers, and students,” Fipps said. “It took about three years to get good ridership. There was at least one local taxi service as well.

“A community of this size would do well to have one or two taxi agencies,” she said.