Caribou garage offers free NYE towing for 30th consecutive year

CARIBOU, MaineBeaulieu’s Garage & Auto Shop in Caribou offered free towing for inebriated residents on New Year’s Eve for the 30th consecutive year.

Business owner Jeff Robertson said the 30 years “went by fast,” adding that he could “write a book” about all of his New Year’s Eve experiences. He preferred not to share any of those stories, however, to protect the privacy of those involved.

Lately, he said the number of calls has gone down compared to their first year of offering the service, adding that the total number of calls can fluctuate greatly every year depending on several factors such as the weather. Some years he recalls being out until 2:30 or 3 a.m. towing 12 vehicles or more. Other years there have been as few as 5.

This year, tow truck drivers dropped off the last vehicle around 2:30 a.m., and Robertson said many of the calls were from outside of Caribou in the Presque Isle area.

Because of a New Year’s Day storm that dropped a total of 8.9 inches of snow in Caribou, they only towed six vehicles this year, a number Robertson said is lower than average.

Staff stayed until about 3:15 a.m. on New Year’s Day just in case another individual needed transportation.

“It’s a commitment,” Robertson said, “no doubt about it.”

The total number of calls for the service definitely has trended downward over the years.

“Drinking and driving was more of an everyday occurrence when we first started,” he said, “but the laws have gotten tighter and the population numbers have gone down, so there’s less people going out on New Year’s Eve.”

Another factor affecting the number of calls is what day of the week New Year’s Eve lands on and when most people receive their paychecks.

Most people he helps are generally positive when he picks them up, but he often doesn’t see them again since the majority of calls are not from his typical customer base.

Between his service, taxis, and designated drivers, Robertson said on Dec. 31 that he hoped there were no fatalities in the area on New Year’s Eve, adding that there haven’t been any OUI related deaths on New Year’s Eve since the business began offering the service.

The company began offering the service in an effort to “give back to the community and make a difference,” according to Robertson, who added that “it takes a lot of people to make a community and this is our one part.”

“Everybody pulling together makes life better for all of us,” he said.

Robertson said the only stipulations are that the driver needs to go home with his or her vehicle to ensure that the company has done its part for the caller’s safety and that the vehicle needs to be in working condition, as some customers in the past have taken advantage of the service in hopes of getting a free tow for a broken vehicle.

While the service is not utilized as much as it once was, Robertson said his business was ready to simultaneously run three wreckers depending on the volume of requests.

“We want people to get home safely and start the new year off on the right foot,” he said. “They might have a headache, but they’ll be starting it off on the right foot.”

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