It started on Thursday night with numerous police vehicles zooming into Clarendon with sirens blaring. Drivers pulled over and pedestrians stopped in their tracks. Suddenly, revelers were met with a most unusual sight — a superhero in a cape and leotard emerging from the Chooser Cruiser. Arlington, meet Soberman.
While his getup produced many laughs, Soberman’s message was serious: don’t drink and drive. Speaking through a police car loudspeaker, Soberman told everyone to have fun and enjoy their adult beverages, but to make a smart choice when trying to get home by using a designated driver, taxi, public transportation or by walking.
Soberman’s appearance was coordinated by the Arlington County Police Department and the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP). Attendees were reminded of WRAP’s free holiday taxi service through SoberRide, which runs through New Year’s Day.
WRAP President Kurt Erickson said this is a bit of a different tactic for getting people not to drink and drive. The idea is all about engaging people in a fun way to get Soberman’s message to sink in.
“The message for the rest of the year is that police have stepped up to apprehend drunk drivers. But this message is not about that. This message is hey, celebrate responsibly,” said Erickson. “It’s extremely well received. It’s just a little bit of a different message.”
Soberman repeatedly said that people should enjoy the holiday cheer and they don’t necessarily need to stop drinking, they just should be responsible after drinking. He said his mission is “not to be a buzz kill, only to make sure the buzz doesn’t hit the road.”
Drinkers and non-drinkers alike gathered around Soberman to chat with him and to pose for photos. Passengers leaned out of passing cars to snap pictures and people who spotted the commotion came out of buildings to get a better glimpse. Soberman yelled across Wilson Blvd to a number of drinkers who had just stepped out of bars and began cheering. He waved them over to his spot in front of Whitlow’s.
“Partiers of Clarendon, come over here! Soberman wants to talk to you about how you’re getting home!” he said. “You can win prizes!”
The anti-drunk driving superhero approached one man emerging from a bar and said, “Hello, Arlington partier. I am Soberman.” The bar patron promptly replied, “I am Drunkman.” Soberman congratulated the man for having fun and asked the all-important question,”Drunkman, how are you getting home tonight?”
Like all those who were able to prove they had a safe and sober ride home, the man received a Starbucks gift card from Soberman for making a wise choice. The man flashed a Metro card and said he had no intention of getting behind the wheel.
Soberman especially encouraged folks in Clarendon to use social media to spread the word about staying sober while driving. Those who took the message to Twitter have a chance to win a John Wall or Alex Ovechkin bobblehead.
Part of the campaign is to get drinkers to plan ahead instead of trying to come up with a way to get home once they are already impaired.
“People just need to plan ahead, but they often don’t,” Erickson said. “Leaving the bar is not the time to make an exit strategy. If you’re able to plan an evening out, you should be able to plan a safe way home.”
Soberman first appeared at the end of August but has been particularly active during the holiday season.
“My mission is to prevent drunk driving before it starts,” said Soberman. “Any way you get home safe after having adult beverages — by designated driver or bus or Metro or cab — is the safe and sober choice.”
SoberRide to Offer Free Halloween Cab Rides – The Washington Regional Alcohol Program is offering free taxi rides next Thursday on the night of Halloween. From 10:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m., revelers can dial 1-800-200-TAXI, be picked up and taken to their destination free of charge, within a $30 fare. The service is offered in D.C. as well as the Maryland suburbs and other Northern Virginia municipalities. The service is being offered to prevent drunk driving, and WRAP says that 52 percent of traffic deaths on Halloween come from drunk drivers. [SoberRide]
Crystal City BID to Give Away Free Bike Lights — The Crystal City Business Improvement District will be giving away free bicycle lights this afternoon (Friday). The giveaway is taking place at the Crystal City exit of the Mount Vernon Trail from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. At the bike light giveaway last year, cyclists received front and tail “Bug Eye” lights. [Crystal City BID]
Road Closures for the Marine Corps Marathon — The Marine Corps Marathon is this Sunday, and many road around Arlington will be closed while runners participate. The closures will begin at 4:00 a.m. and many roads will not reopen until 4:30 p.m. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by ddimick. Disclosure: Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser.
WRAP Offering Free Cab Rides July 4 — The Washington Regional Alcohol Program is again sponsoring free taxi rides on Independence Day for those carousing in the D.C. region. From 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., those interested in taking SoberRide can call 1-800-200-8294 and have a free ride home worth up to $30. If the fare would cost more than $30, then the rider would be financially responsible for the difference. Riders must be 21 years or older to participate. [WRAP]
Labels for Ornamental Tree Garden – Members of TreeStewards have set out labeling trees in the Ornamental Tree Garden along the W&OD Trail north of Wilson Boulevard. Many of the trees’ identifying signs had been damaged, lost or, in some cases, switched so they are no longer identifying the correct trees. About 30 trees have been relabeled so far along Four Mile Run. [TreeStewards]
Local Newsletter Pioneer Profiled – Longtime Arlington resident Tom Whipple started sending out summaries to stories on Virginia politics to anyone who wanted them in the late 1990s. A decade later, the “Whipple Report“ became the most widely read email newsletter among the Commonwealth’s legislators, lobbyists and media. Whipple, who’s married to former state Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, passed on his newsletter to the Virginia Public Access Project in 2011. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by christinerich.
Free Taxi Rides on St. Paddy’s Day — As part of the SoberRide program, the Washington Regional Alcohol Program will be offering free taxi rides home on Sunday (St. Patrick’s Day) from 4:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. In order to get your fare (up to $30) comped, you must call 1-800-200-TAXI to book the cab. [Washington Regional Alcohol Program]
St. Patrick’s Day in Shirlington — Restaurants and stores in Shirlington are offering a number of specials food, drink and product this weekend in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]
Arlington Touts Traffic Management — Despite a surge in population and employment in Arlington County since the 1970s, there has not been a corresponding significant increase in traffic levels on major county streets. According to a new blog post from the county’s Mobility Lab, Arlington County Commuter Services deserves some of the credit for that. The bureau — which operates Walk Arlington, Bike Arlington, and the Car Free Diet marketing campaign, among other “Transportation Demand Management” functions — says it kept 45,000 cars off county streets every work day in 2012. [Mobility Lab]
ACPD Officers to Participate in Bike Trek — Three Arlington County police officers will participate in the annual “Road to Hope” Law Enforcement United bicycle trek from Chesapeake, Virginia to Washington, D.C. The three day, 250-mile ride is organized “to honor the service and sacrifice of their law enforcement colleagues who have died in the line of duty” and to provide support for two law enforcement charities. [Arlington County Police Department]
Fight to Keep National Science Foundation — The National Science Foundation’s lease in Ballston is up next year, and neighboring communities are trying to lure the agency away from Arlington. So far, officials in Alexandria are some of the only ones who have openly expressed interest in bidding for the NSF. Fairfax County officials have kept quiet about whether they’re interested, specifically for areas along the upcoming Silver Line like Tysons Corner or Reston. Communities have until January 9 to submit proposals to the federal government. [Washington Examiner]
Parking Concerns with Ashlawn Elementary School Expansion — Updated at 9:25 a.m. — Despite criticism from some neighbors in Boulevard Manor, last week the School Board approved plans for the expansion of Ashlawn Elementary School. Neighbors raised concerns about adding a new entrance on N. Manchester Street and adding additional parking on the school site. The issue will likely go before the County Board, which is able to adjust the number of parking spaces required under zoning requirements. [Sun Gazette]
SoberRide Program Ends Tuesday — SoberRide will continue offering free cab rides until Tuesday, January 1 at 6:00 a.m. Customers can call 1-800-200-TAXI for a free ride home (up to a $30 fare) from 10:00 p.m. through 6:00 a.m. every night until the program ends. All requests must be called in to the SoberRide dispatch and not to other cab companies. [Washington Regional Alcohol Program]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
The regional SoberRide program will be offering free cab rides throughout the holidays.
From Friday, Dec. 14 to Tuesday, Jan. 1, SoberRide will be providing no-cost cab rides to those who call 1-800-200-TAXI from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Last December, more than 2,000 D.C. area residents used SoberRide in December, according to the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP).
In addition to the SoberRide program, WRAP and Red Top Cab recently unveiled a half-taxi, half-police cruiser that has been parked in Clarendon in an effort to deter drunk driving.
From a WRAP press release:
Combating that time of year classified by U.S. Government officials as one of the deadliest times on America’s roadways due to an increase in drunk driving, a local nonprofit organization announced today that free cab rides will be offered to would-be drunk drivers throughout Arlington County, Virginia during the winter holidays.
Offered by the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), the annual Holiday SoberRide program will operate between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am each evening between Friday, December 14, 2012 and Tuesday, January 1, 2013 as a way to keep local roads safe from impaired drivers during this traditionally high-risk, holiday period.
During the evening hours, between December 14th and January 1st, Washington-metropolitan area residents celebrating with alcohol may call the toll-free SoberRide phone number 1–800–200–TAXI and be afforded a no-cost (up to $ 30 fare), safe way home. (AT&T wireless users can dial #WRAP for the same service.)
“Last December, over 2,000 (2,032) Greater Washington residents did the right thing and availed themselves of this lifesaving service rather than possibly driving home impaired,” said Kurt Gregory Erickson, WRAP’s President. “For SoberRide’s hours of operation during just last New Year’s Eve, such ridership (396) translated into the removal of a would-be drunk driver from our shared roadways every 72-seconds.”
SoberRide is offered in the: District of Columbia; throughout the Maryland counties of Montgomery and Prince George’s; and throughout the Northern Virginia counties of Arlington, Fairfax, (eastern) Loudoun and Prince William. In these areas, local taxicab companies will be providing this no-cost service to local residents age 21 and older who otherwise may have attempted to drive home after drinking.
Since 1993, WRAP’s SoberRide program has provided 55,851 free cab rides home to would-be drunk drivers in the Greater Washington area.
Sponsors of the 2012 Holiday SoberRide campaign include: Anheuser-Busch, AT&T, Diageo, GEICO, Giant, MillersCoors, Red Top Cab, Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, Volkswagen Group of America and the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association.
Participating taxicab companies include: Alexandria Yellow Cab; Barwood; Fairfax Yellow Cab; Loudoun Yellow Cab; Manassas Cab Company; Red Top Cab; Silver Cab of Prince George’s County; Yellow Cab of D.C.; and Yellow Cab of Prince William County.
County to Ask For Federal Storm Aid — Yesterday, Arlington County ended the State of Emergency declaration put in place for Hurricane Sandy. The county says it will seek federal reimbursement for the estimated $1.17 million cost of responding to the storm. Meanwhile, the county says that one private home was destroyed by the storm, while 17 suffered major damage and 27 suffered minor damage. [Arlington County]
APS Rolls Out ‘Courtesy Bus Service’ — Arlington Public Schools has started to bus some students who lost their eligibility to ride the bus this year as part of changes to the school system’s transportation policies this year. The courtesy service will only be offered this year, school officials say. So far, 83 students have been allowed back on buses. [Sun Gazette]
SoberRide Halloween Stats — The SoberRide program says it provided 157 free cab rides to “would-be drunk drivers” in the D.C. area on Wednesday night and early Thursday morning. [Washington Regional Alcohol Program]
Road Closures for 5K Race — A number of roads will be closed near Tuckahoe Elementary School for the National Race Against the Odds 5K race this weekend. The closures will be in place from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Sunday (Nov. 4). [ACPD]
Advice for Damaged Trees — The TreeStewards of Arlington and Alexandria have some advice for property owners whose trees were damaged by SuperStorm Sandy. The organization has been encouraging property owners to read about precautions to be taken when hiring tree services to help with storm clean-up, and about “first aid” procedures for storm-damaged trees.
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Trick or Treating Tonight – So far, Arlington County has not placed any restrictions on trick or treating tonight in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. There’s no official trick or treating time in Arlington; children typically begin trick or treating shortly after sundown.
Halloween Safety Tips – WalkArlington has a number of helpful safety tips for parents whose children will be trick or treating tonight. Among them: Parents should make sure their trick-or-treaters are wearing bright colors or reflectors and have a costume that allows them to clearly see their surroundings. Parents should also review safety rules with children before they leave the house. [WalkArlington]
Reopening After Sandy — Arlington Public Schools will be open today, with the exception of Barcroft Elementary School, which is still without power. Arlington County government offices, libraries, courts, community centers, and nature centers will also be open, as will federal government offices.
SoberRide Still On — The SoberRide program, which provides a free cab ride (up to a $30 fare) for holiday revelers, is still on despite Sandy. It’s open to anyone in the greater D.C. area calling 1-800-200-TAXI between 10:00 tonight and 4:00 tomorrow morning. A planned SoberRide-related press event in Arlington, however, which was to unveil a new vehicle that would be used to discourage drunk driving, has been postponed until after Election Day (Nov. 6).
A lot of people celebrate the holiday season with alcohol, which can make the roads dangerous. To keep the streets a little safer from potentially impaired drivers, SoberRide is offering free taxi rides home.
From now through January 1, riders in Arlington and the surrounding areas can receive a free cab ride home, up to a $30 fare. The Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WARP) teamed up with several sponsors to offer the service. Multiple taxi companies, including Arlington’s Red Top Cab, are participating in the initiative.
Riders must be at least 21 years old and follow a few guidelines, including not reserving a taxi in advance. The service runs from 10:00 p.m. through 6:00 a.m.
All calls must go to 1-800-200-TAXI. Do not call your local cab company directly to request SoberRide services. There is more information about the program on the WRAP website.
SoberRide Active for Halloween — The regional SoberRide program will be offered Saturday night/early Sunday morning. Halloween partiers can call 1-800-200-TAXI (8294) between 10:00 p.m. on Saturday and 6:00 a.m. on Sunday to get a free, safe ride home — up to a $30 fare — in Arlington, Alexandria, D.C., Fairfax and most other surrounding jurisdictions. Arlington’s Red Top Cab is not only one of the participating cab companies, but one of the main sponsors of the program. [Washington Regional Alcohol Program]
Candidate Forum on Sunday — The League of Women Voters of Arlington will be sponsoring a candidate forum on Sunday. From 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., the local candidates for state Senator, state Delegate and County Board will discuss their stances on the issues. The forum is being held at the Arlington Central Library auditorium (1015 N. Quincy Street). [League of Women Voters]
Goblins, Ghouls and Politicians in Westover — On Saturday afternoon, the Westover neighborhood will host its own version of a candidates forum. But instead of speeches and debate, the candidates are instead invited to hang out at the Westover beer garden (5863 N. Washington Blvd) and meet and greet votes. The candidate event will take place between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m., and will be followed by the annual Westover Halloween Parade. [TLHCA Blog]
Community Yard Sale This Weekend — The West Village of Shirlington condo complex (4167 S. Four Mile Run) is holding a community yard sale on Saturday, from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]