ARIZONA — Arizona fines for drunk driving start at $2,800, and now require 10 days in jail. As a result, the liquor industry is helping customers get home by subsidizing cabs, limos and new designated-driver services.
"We do save a lot of people from driving home and drinking and driving," said Chris Groepler, Transtyle Limousine general manager.
Groepler's drivers line up outside Barcelona in Scottsdale and other clubs to take dozens of people home on weekend nights.
Hensley, a major Valley beer distributor, offers $10 discount coupons for Zingo Arizona Designated Drivers, a service that takes bar patrons home in their cars. Zingo drivers stow fold-up motorized scooters stored in patrons' car trunks as part of the $25 basic shuttle-service fee to get themselves back after dropping off drivers and cars. With the coupon, it's $15 for the first 3 miles plus $3 per mile after that.
It all comes down to dollars and sense.
Dos Gringos bar owner Brian Roehrich said he has seen figures that Arizona's bar business is off as much as 28%. The industry has responded by trying to help its patrons drink responsibly and get home safely, he said.
Dos Gringos in Scottsdale has sponsored the Zingo drivers and offered free rides for its patrons on a trial basis.
The tougher penalties are scaring a lot of people, said Michael Hegarty, deputy director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety.
"We think it is having a good effect of changing their behavior," he said.
Arly Richau, a local attorney, said he has noticed a change in the Scottsdale bars he frequents.
"I have not seen a downturn in the number of people in the bars, but I have seen less alcohol being consumed," he said, adding that people switch to water after having a few drinks.
Richau spent about $150 for a portable device from Sharper Image that he said gives him a reasonable estimate of his sobriety.
The DUI fines and ignition interlocks are tough, but the automatic 10 days in jail is the biggest deterrent, he said.
His law firm has an account with a cab company for discounted rides home.
Discount Cab and Transtyle Limousine both say they have a number of corporate accounts that allow executives at those companies to get rides home rather than risk DUIs.
Barcelona uses Transtyle to get its inebriated patrons home, with its Lincoln Town Cars and Cadillac Escalades lining up outside the Scottsdale club.
Transtyle charges a $15 minimum charge for the first 5 miles from Barcelona and $3 for each additional mile.
Fares for Discount Cab start with a $2.95 pickup fee, $1.80 per mile and 40 cents per minute. It ends up costing about $25 for a 10-mile ride home.
"There's really no excuse to get in your car," said Pogue of Discount Cab.