Drink and be driven

The Straits Times
www.straitstimes.com
Published on Dec 23, 2010
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Drink and be driven

By cara van miriah

In your drunken stupor, you might mistake that tinkling sound for Santa’s sleigh bells ringing. But, no, that is just the sound of your car keys in the valet’s hand, as he prepares to drive you home.

To cater to increased demand from partygoers this festive season, at least three valet companies here are beefing up their number of part-time drivers.

Valet companies who provide a drive-home service are also seeing a 20 per cent spike in the number of bookings for Christmas Eve tomorrow and New Year’s Eve next Friday.

One company, GN Valet, is even offering a $20 discount, off its usual rate of $60 for a single trip, on its drive-home service from now till Feb 28.

The four-year-old valet company will add 10 more drivers, making it a total of 50 drivers at its stations in Clarke Quay, Marriott Hotel and St James Power Station nightclub both tomorrow and next Friday.

GN Valet’s director Anto Nazareth, 51, says the discount is to promote the service and encourage people not to drink and drive during the party season.

One driver can make up to three single trips a night. A full-time valet makes between $1,200 and $1,500 a month, excluding tips.

Another established valet company, Speed Valet, will double its six-men crew on the same two nights. In previous years, Speed Valet has been booked for 30 drive-home trips on each of those two nights, compared to 20 on a normal Friday night, notes its operations supervisor Zaili Rapan.

Similarly, five-year-old Front Valet Services, which has valet stations in Serangoon Gardens, Jalan Kayu and Arab Street, will have 10 more drivers standing by, in addition to its pool of 20 drivers, says a spokesman.

In the past two years, drive-home services have become more popular.

Valet companies promote this service mainly through word-of-mouth.

GN Valet, for example, drives home up to 20 clients at St James Power Station on a weekend night, compared to less than 10 two years ago.

Mr Nazareth says: ‘People are slowly getting used to the idea of letting a stranger drive their car. We constantly advise people not to drink and drive. There is always the possibility of getting caught during police road blocks, or worse, getting involved in accidents.’

Still, the availability of this drive-home service is not appreciated by everyone.

Part-time GN Valet Kelvin Poh, 26, says: ‘I have come across those who get behind the wheel despite us advising them not to do so. There have been cases where some customers were caught for drink-driving.’

This year, fewer drivers have been caught for drink driving. But, of those caught, more had been involved in accidents.

In the first nine months of this year, the Traffic Police arrested 2,146 drivers for drink driving, a 6per cent drop from the same period last year.

In the first 10 months of this year, there had been a 7.4 per cent increase in arrests of drink drivers who were involved in accidents as compared to last year.

This month, the Traffic Police launched their three-month anti-drink driving campaign, Don’t Drive To Drink, from Dec 10 to Feb28.

The Traffic Police will leave postcards with an anti-drink driving message at 260 entertainment outlets and tertiary institutions. They will also slip white pamphlets resembling traffic tickets onto the windscreens of cars parked at nightspots and Housing Board carparks.

The ‘tickets’ list the penalties of drink driving, as well as alternatives such as taking public transport or having a sober designated driver.

First-time drink driving offenders can be fined up to $5,000 or jailed up to six months. Repeat offenders can be fined up to $30,000 and jailed up to three years. Offenders who cause death or serious injury may also receive up to six strokes of the cane.

Sales manager Michael Chew, 32, is one reveller who is planning to be driven home by a valet this year. He prefers driving his car – a Lexus – for a night out, rather than taking public transport.

‘Sometimes, you can wait more than 20 minutes for a taxi on a Friday night at Clarke Quay,’ he says.

‘I book a drive-home service after a drinking session. Along the way, I have come across road blocks and it is a reminder not to drink and drive.’

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