Lebanon News

Free taxi rides announced to ensure a safe New Year’s Eve

BEIRUT: Partygoers celebrating New Year’s Eve with one too many drinks will have the option of getting home safely, thanks to a free taxi service available by calling the hotline 1514.

The initiative, which covers Beirut and Mount Lebanon, is organized by the Syndicate of Restaurants, Cafes, Nightclubs and Pastries Owners, in cooperation with the Internal Security Forces and the General Syndicate of Taxi Drivers in Lebanon.

“This initiative allows people to have fun while being safe,” Tony Ramy, president of the syndicate told The Daily Star Thursday.

“We encourage all of our members and employees to call a cab for any person who appears to be under the effect of alcohol.”

In a statement to announce the intuitive, the Directorate General of the ISF also announced an increase in patrols on the night of Dec. 31, including a heightened number of checkpoints equipped to test the blood-alcohol level. “Ensuring road safety is paramount [and] saving lives is our priority,” an ISF official told The Daily Star.

He also praised the collaboration between governmental and civil institutions, saying that “nothing can be accomplished without cooperation.”

The idea of providing free taxi rides was first launched by the non-governmental organization Kunhadi, which promotes youth awareness on road safety. According to statistics released by the organization, in 2015 over 5,600 car crashes occurred in Lebanon, resulting in 576 deaths.

Established in 2006 following the death of 18-year-old Hady Gebrane, the organization launched the service. However, they also run a similar service throughout the year.

The organization’s new app, Flugen, is currently being soft-launched to simplify the public’s access to the service. On New Year’s Eve, a taxi ride booked through the app will be fully covered by the NGO. During the year, however, partygoers who decide to leave their cars behind and book a cab through Flugen will be reimbursed the full fair for the journey back to their vehicles the next day.

Fady Gebrane, president of the organization and Hady’s father, has been devoted to raising awareness about road safety issues since he lost his son. “The name of the app, Flugen, comes from an expression Hady used every time he did not know the answer to a question,” Gebrane told The Daily Star. As he explained, the expression means ‘flight’ in German, but is colloquially used to mean “go with the flow.”

According to Gebrane, most of car crashes in Lebanon happen at night or during weekends. “Since 2006 we have tried to convince people to take a cab when they go out partying and so far we have been successful.” Through the app established in loving memory of his son, he hopes this New Year’s Eve will bring more and more people to have fun responsibly and get back to their families safely.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 30, 2016, on page 3.

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