New approach to drunk driving prevention

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A new DUI campaign is taking a creative approach to get your attention. It lets you make that infamous "one call" from jail so you can hire a lawyer or find someone to bail you out.

Starting Thursday, you can call 1-877-JAIL-FON and select from a list of options. Do you want to ask your mom for bail money? Try to hire a lawyer? Get help from your slacker roommate? You can practice what it would be like.

You hear things like an angry wife berating you for getting behind the wheel drunk.

If you don't want to make this call, don't drink and drive.


"And you couldn't get a ride from a sober friend?" she asks. "Oh, that's right. I've met your friends."

A frustrated husband wants to know if the car's been wrecked and whether it's been impounded. The caller's mother wonders where she went wrong raising you. And the lawyer's office puts you on hold for what seems like several minutes, with pleasant reminders to have your credit card ready, or to choose the convenient second mortgage option for pre-payment.

We asked people to try the new number.

"That was pretty funny, but at the end it's not funny because you're dealing with people's lives," said Julio Robles.

Robles called the Jail Fon father who, in the end, opted not to bail him out of jail. Robles believes the campaign is timely.

"I just went out last weekend and one of my friends was drinking and driving. I ended up driving with someone else," he says.

Dallen Smith also tried the number and had to repeatedly explain himself to an upset parent.

"It shows how it kind of really is," he says.

The Utah Highway Safety Office hopes the number will get people to think about all the consequences of drinking and driving as well as open a dialogue between friends.

The office is partnering with bars, taverns and restaurants to spread the message. You'll see signs in restrooms and bar tables wrapped to look like telephone keypads, plus an advertising blitz on radio and TV. The promotional items with the Jail Fon number are being distributed at a number of participating bars including Lumpy's downtown.

"We really want to keep our customers safe and this is a good way to do that," says spokesperson Dana Romney.

In 2008 there were 34 alcohol related fatalities statewide. That's down from 42 deaths in 2007.

"Drunk driving is a serious issue, a serious crime, and we're not going to tolerate it," says UHP Sgt. Ted Tingey.

Last August was the busiest month for DUI arrests. Law enforcement will be out in full force from now until Labor Day.

"The main focus is targeting that 21-30 age group that seems to have a problem with drinking and driving," Sgt. Tingey says.

The recorded message at 1-877-JAIL-FON makes the point clear: "If you don't want to make this call, don't drink and drive."

Story compiled with contributions from Becky Bruce and E-mail: Sarah Dallof.**

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