Thousands celebrate the new year in downtown Burlington Monday night.
Revelers packed onto Church Street as they flocked to bars. For cab companies it's the busiest and one of the best nights of the year, for those who choose to drink and drive, it may be one of the worst nights of their life.
On a typical Monday night, drivers for Benway's Taxi and its affiliates will pickup and drop-off a couple hundred customers. New Year's Eve, the biggest night of the year, they expect to carry thousands.
"Before we're actually finished and the phones stop ringing off the hook it'll be eight o'clock (Tuesday) morning," said company manager Wanda Robar.
Robar says throughout most of the night, wait times for a cab shouldn't exceed 15 - 20 minutes. But when bars close, there's no way to keep up with demand. "They're tired and it's two in the morning, and that's the hardest part, trying to get everyone out of the downtown corridor at exactly the same time," said Robar.
Many customers didn't even have to pick up the tab for a safe ride home. The law firm of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti offered free rides to those who called the firm between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.
Several of those who risked driving after a few drinks, found themselves in the back of a cruiser. "(Monday) night is part of really a 20-day effort that we're cracking down on impaired driving," said Vermont State Police Lt. John Flannigan.
He says it's been a deadly year on Vermont's roadways. More than half of the 77 fatalities in crashes this year involved impairment. "We don't want to see that number rise by one," he noted.
More troopers hit the road, while others conducted checkpoints. Weaving, erratic speed, or even malfunctioning equipment can all indicate to officers that something is amiss. Not every stop results in a DUI, but officers and drivers should both operate under the premise of better safe than sorry.
Cars aren't the only New Year's Eve concern. Drunk pedestrians also pose problems. So, police advised drivers to be alert.
Windham County Sheriff's Dept. live-tweeted traffic stops throughout the night.