Residents of Glendale, Calif., may encounter an unusual car the next time they find themselves at a local event or DUI stop. Designed to resemble half of a patrol car and half of a taxi, the vehicle is part of an initiative that began in 2015 by the Glendale Police Department to highlight the dangers of driving under the influence.
The message the police taxi intends to send is that a $20 taxi ride home is much cheaper than a $15,000 DUI fine that includes legal fees, a donation to a victim restitution fund, and increased insurance costs.
"It's a great reminder for people who drink and drive that they have a choice," said Tahnee Lightfoot, spokeswoman for the Glendale Police Department.
The vehicle gives the Glendale Police Department an opportunity to engage with community members as well. The agency deploys the police taxi at county fairs, car shows, open houses, and other public events to encourage people to consider alternative modes of transportation or assigning a sober designated driver when drinking.
"It's a really great topic of conversation for officers and the public," Lightfoot said. "Kids obviously love police cars, so kids have a good time sitting in the cars and having their pictures taken."
Having the public take photos and spread images of the vehicle is part of the Glendale Police Department's strategy to increase awareness of drunk driving. Lightfoot said one Facebook post featuring the vehicle garnered more than 4,000 comments.
The vehicle has also been deployed at DUI traffic stops, and has occasionally transported DUI drivers to the police station.
Lightfoot was driven to find ways to focus her agency's public relations efforts toward DUI prevention after researching intoxicated driving statistics throughout the country.
"When you go through the stats throughout America, the DUIs are not really reducing, they're increasing," she said. "And then you have DUI drugs that are involved as well."
She had the idea to implement a half-patrol car, half-taxi vehicle after seeing that police in Huntington Beach, Calif., used a patrol vehicle with a taxi design painted onto its back half as part of its "Choose Your Ride" campaign. The Huntington Beach Police Department's campaign was launched in 2014 as the number of alcohol-related traffic accidents in the city grew, while DUI arrests shrank.
Lightfoot pitched the police taxi idea to Glendale's police chief and command staff, as well as the Glendale Police Foundation, a volunteer non-profit that provides funding for programs and equipment that the department budget is unable to cover. One member of the Glendale Police Foundation volunteered to fund the project himself.
"We had a member of the Glendale Police Foundation that raised his hand and said, 'I will fund the entire project, because my father was killed by a DUI driver,'" Lightfoot said.
The estimated cost to design the graphics and apply the yellow vinyl wrapping was about $2,000.
Lightfoot collaborated with Glendale Police Sgt. Teal Metts and Mothers Against Drunk Driving to create the design, which features a comparison between the cost of a taxi ride versus fines, as well as slogans such as "The choice is yours," and "Think before you drink." The design was inspired by Metts' interest in sports cars and racing and was meant to create a vehicle that was eye-catching, fun, and informative.
The police taxi project is part of a larger effort from the Glendale Police Department to curb DUIs, including obtaining a grant that allows the department to put more officers on patrol to target DUI drivers.
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