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Drinking? Let someone else do the driving on New Year's Eve

Alcohol is inevitably linked with New Year's Eve, and so are DUIs. This is one very costly ticket that will land you in jail for the night, curb your own driving for close to a year and cost you thousands. Here are some tips to avoid all that.

— Susan Thurston and Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Times staff writers

Luxury of limos

Limousine companies are taking reservations and, if past years are any indication, will likely be booked for the night.

Olympus Limousine started getting calls in November for its fleet of 26 limos, vans, sedans and SUVs, said office manager Dellene O'Brien. Its minimum rental time is eight hours, up from five on normal nights. Vehicles are $99 for the smallest, six-passenger limo and $198 an hour for a 20-seater, including tip. That's about $80 per person for a party of 20 for eight hours. It supplies ice, glasses and napkins. You provide the rest. For information, call (813) 345-5466, (727) 842-3522 or (352) 683-7040.

Crown Royal Limousine has booked its mack-daddy — a 16-seater Hummer — but has several smaller vehicles available. Limos rent for $80 to $100 an hour, which is less than previous years because of the weak economy, said Crown Royal owner Tony Garcia. He also reduced the minimum rental time from eight to six hours to accommodate tighter budgets. Call (813) 265-4213.

Metro Car Tampa rents limos, sedans and SUVs for $150 an hour, including tip, for a minimum of three hours. Reservations are recommended about two weeks in advance. Call toll-free 1-877-288-2672.

Call a cab — now

Making reservations for cabs several days in advance is a good idea, but not absolutely necessary. Cabs will be out in force ferrying partiers on demand. Expect to pay the same as any other day. Standard meter and flat rates set by the Public Transportation Commission will apply. Be kind to your driver and tip 20 percent of the fare.

"Everything is going to be swamped that night,'' said G.J. Minardi, spokesman for Yellow Cab of Tampa. "People will have to be patient.''

Taxis will pick up at specified locations but also will congregate in Tampa at the Marriott Waterside Hotel, the University of Tampa's Vaughn Hall and near MacDinton's in SoHo.

It might be a good idea to program in advance a few cab numbers on your cell phone so you don't have to search for a number. Here are a few: Yellow Cab, (813) 253-0121 or (727) 799-2222; Red Top Cab Co., (813) 888-5008; and United Cab Co., (813) 253-2424. If you don't have a number and are too cheap to dial 411 on your cell phone, then ask the bar manager.

Other options

. Make a deal with your significant other or a close friend to trade favors as a designated driver. You offer to drive home from the office party if he offers to drive home from the New Year's party.

. If you'd rather not leave your car at a bar, you can call the AAA's free "Tow to Go" program that will tow you home, even if you aren't a AAA member; call 1-800-AAA-HELP (222-4357).

. Put the number of Zingo in your phone now. Zingo is a fleet of designated drivers who show up on a scooter that they can fold and put in the trunk before driving you home. It operates in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk and Pasco counties and runs about $5 more than a cab. There's a $10 pickup fee and a $3-per-mile charge, and they take all credit cards. Call toll-free 1-888-946-4611 or go to ZingoTampa.com.

. Consider public transportation for your partying plans. Both the TECO Line Streetcar and the Intown Trolley may operate until 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve. See www.hartline.org for maps and details.

Drinking? Let someone else do the driving on New Year's Eve 12/16/09 [Last modified: Friday, December 18, 2009 12:57pm]

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