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Remember Budweiser’s ‘Tow to Go’ this weekend

Plan on driving to a July 4th weekend party where you know you’re going to have a few pops to go with the fireworks?

Instead of trying to drive home, call: (800)-AAA-HELP.

That’s the number for Budweiser’s “Tow to Go” program.

Rather than get behind the wheel, drivers who have had too much to drink can have their vehicles towed home free of charge today through Sunday.

“A great service to the community,” said Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube. “This weekend and New Years are our worst when it comes to people drinking and driving. This gives people who consume alcohol this weekend the chance to do the smart thing. It’s a great tool. Use it.”

The towing program is in its 11th year, according to Steve White, longtime gas station and towing company owner in Palmetto.

Locally, it’s a collaboration of 12 area towing companies, AAA, and Gold Coast Eagle Distributing President John Saputo, and sanctioned by the Florida Highway Patrol.

“I’d been doing it on my own around here in the early 1980s,” White said. “It hurt me personally when innocent families had to claim the car after wrecks in which someone was killed or maimed. I know these people.

“I figured, if we can do something to stop that, save one life, prevent one person from spending the rest of their lives in a wheelchair, it’s more than worth it.”

Since its inception, White said, nearly 500 motorists in Manatee and Sarasota counties have taken advantage of “Tow to Go” annually.

With the program now in one-third of the U.S., he estimates 5,000 drivers have followed suit.

Saputo said it was a logical step up from Budweiser’s free taxi ride home program.

People he had spoken to with DUIs told him they’d skipped taking the free taxi, because they needed the car to get to work.

“We said, let’s offer them a free ride home with the car in tow and then there’s no excuse for them to take a chance,” Saputo said.

“So I plead: Don’t take that chance. Dial the 800 (AAA-HELP) number.”

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, Fla. 34206 or e-mail him at vmannix@bradenton.com. Please include a phone number for verification.

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