Is AAA's "Tipsy Tow" Program for Real?

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AAA Tipsy Tow

AAA Tipsy Tow Service
Netlore Archive: Viral social media posts urge New Year's Eve drinkers to take advantage of AAA's "Tipsy Tow" service, a free program designed to keep drunk drivers off the road. However, the service is not available nationwide. Viral image / Facebook

Starting in 2011, viral messages began appearing on social media announcing a "Tipsy Tow" program said to be sponsored by AAA that offered drivers who had been drinking a free ride home, particularly during holidays. For example, on New Year's Eve, 2012, this message appeared on Facebook: 

"No excuses...Don't drink and drive — and don't ride with anybody who does. Tipsy Tow offered by AAA. You don't have to be an AAA member, from 6pm-6am on New Year's Eve/Day they will take your drunk ass and your car home for FREE. 1-800-222-4357. Please repost this if you want to!! Nationwide!!

2011 Example

The previous year, on Dec. 30, 2011, a nearly identical message appeared on Facebook, which read as follows:

If you're planning on going to any parties on New Year's, pay attention. Don't drink and drive — and don't ride with anybody who does. Tipsy Tow is offered by AAA. You don't have to be a AAA member, from 6pm-6am on New Year's Eve/Day they will take your drunk self and your car home for FREE. Save this number... 1-800-222-4357 . Please re-post this if you don't mind helping save lives. This is nationwide. Drunk driving kills...

Analysis: It's Partly True

 "Tipsy Tow" (aka "Tow-to-Go" or "Holiday Safe Ride Program") is an actual service provided by AAA on New Year's Eve and other holidays, such as Labor Day, in some U.S. cities and towns. Drinking drivers and their vehicles are transported home free of charge if they call the 800 number above and request it. You don't have to be a member of AAA to make use of the service.

Here's how it works, according to AAA:

"During the period Tipsy Tow is available, drivers, potential passengers, party hosts, bartenders, and restaurant managers can call 800-222-4357 (AAA-HELP) for a free tow home of up to ten miles. Just tell the AAA operator, 'I need a Tipsy Tow,' and a truck will be on its way.

The service will provide a one-way ride for the driver and vehicle to the driver's home. If there are additional passengers who need a ride, they will be taken to the driver's home as long is there is sufficient room for them to be transported safely in the tow truck. You cannot make a reservation."

It's Not Nationwide

Contrary to what's commonly claimed, however, the Tipsy Tow program is not available nationwide. A list of participating AAA locations is available on the American Automobile Association website. Alternative sober/safe ride programs in other parts of the country are also provided.

So, if you plan to go out during the next holiday and drink, don't assume you'll be able to call AAA or an alternative program to obtain a free ride home. Do some research ahead of time to ensure that the area you live — or plan to party — in does, indeed, offer this services.

"A number of AAA clubs offer safe ride services on select dates for members and nonmembers," says ​AAA. "This service is not available everywhere. AAA strongly recommends selecting a designated driver before heading out for any ... celebrations."