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SULLIVAN COUNTY SHERIFF Michael Schiff talks about the Alert Cab program during Friday's Dana Distributors press conference announcing the initiative.

Take a Cab, Save a Life

By Jeanne Sager
MONTICELLO — January 1, 2008 — So you went out for the new year and drank more than you ever thought you could.
Need a ride home?
Don’t worry, the fare’s on the folks at Anheuser-Busch.
The rides, offered by the Yellow Cab company on East Broadway in Monticello, are one way newly elected County Coroner Alan Kesten guarantees he’ll sleep a little easier after enjoying the holidays.
The owner of Yellow Cab, Kesten signed up with the Missouri company best known for its line of Budweiser beers back when United Beverage was still in Monticello.
Dubbed “Alert Cab,” the program runs across the nation on the major holidays – with an emphasis on New Year’s Eve because of its focus on parties and alcohol consumption.
It’s a simple concept, Kesten said.
Folks who drive to the bar, intending to imbibe only a drink or two, often find themselves well beyond the legal limit.
They’ve got their keys in their pocket, the car’s in the lot.
If they’re smart, Kesten said, they’ll hand the keys to the barkeep, who will place a call to Yellow Cab.
When the taxi arrives, the cabbie pockets the keys, drives the patron home and leaves them on their doorstep no questions asked, and no fare to pay.
Kesten simply records the fare in his log and passes it along to Dana Distributors in Goshen for reimbursement.
The program is limited to a 10-mile radius, but Kesten said the rural nature of Sullivan County means he’ll often send his drivers farther to pick up a drinker in need.
“I’m not going to tell someone, you live 11 miles away, you should drive home,” he said.
“It’s not about the money really,” Kesten continued.
In the past, Dana has accepted Kesten’s fares for New Year’s Eve calls that were just over the limit, taking into account the rural nature of Sullivan County.
But he doesn’t care.
“I would go, whether I got paid or not,” he said. “We’ve been promoting not drinking and driving for a long time.”
A member of the Monticello Fire Department for more than 30 years, Kesten has seen his fair share of motor vehicle accidents.
He’s seen the affects of even just a drink or two in a driver.
“I’m the guy whose gotta cut the guys out of the car when they wreck ‘em,” he said matter-of-factly.
And now that he’s a new county coroner, due to start his job on New Year’s Day, Kesten is going to be acting as the designated driver for his own group of revelers on the holiday.
“God forbid, if something happens, I’m gonna be the coroner that gets the call,” he said.
If he can do it, anyone can forgo a night of drinking to take care of their loved ones.
And if you don’t want to volunteer to be a designated driver, hire someone to do the driving.
“For a $20 bill, you can take a cab,” he noted. “If you’re going out to the bars on New Year’s, and a $20 bill is the issue, you shouldn’t be going out.”
There are rules for the Alert Cab program – Anheuser-Busch doesn’t promote bar-hopping or offer up a free ride for people who don’t plan.
Fares must be headed home, and they must have motored to the bar or party on their own.
Taxi drivers do take possession of the revelers’ keys, but they’re instructed to hand them over when they make the drop-off.
Folks have the option of calling the cab company the following morning for a ride to their car, but Kesten said very few make the call.
Asked if people are embarrassed the next morning, Kesten stressed the good common sense of the program.
“I think they ought to be proud of themselves for not getting in the car and driving,” he said.
Bar owners who deal with Dana should already be aware of the program and know what to do, but Kesten said people can bring the number to Yellow Cab just in case: 794-7777 or 794-4040.

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