Don't drink and drive, get a tow, Russians told

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The Independent Online

Russia's famously reckless drunk drivers are being offered the chance to have themselves, their friends and their vehicle delivered home by somebody else - for a fee.

Russia's famouusly reckless drunk drivers are being offered the chance to have themselves, their friends and their vehicle delivered home by somebody else - for a fee.

After a long night of beer and vodka shots, many Russians throw caution to the wind and leap into their cars, with catastrophic results. Police stopped 1.2 million people for drunk driving last year and 35,000 people died in accidents, more than in any other country. Only one in six offenders lost their licences.

Private firms have realised that they can make money and save lives. Motorists can call one of several "evacuation services" to be towed home in their car with their friends and have a complimentary bottle of champagne. Prices start at the equivalent of £25 for a Russian-made car and £40 for a foreign vehicle.

The only requirement, say the firms, is for the customer to be sober enough to be able to explain where to be picked up. "We have regular customers," said Sergei Pimanov, the head of an evacuation firm. "We know where to take them to, but the thing is we need to know where from."

Private enterprise's gain is the police's loss. Russia's notoriously corrupt traffic police or gaishniki use every opportunity to extract bribes but are now being deprived of some of their "customers". Andrei Smirnov, a tow-truck driver, said: "A drunk driver is a soft touch and we're taking a slice of their pie."

The government is seeking to crack down on drunk drivers. The deputy interior minister, Alexander Chekalin, said: "Leniency by the court towards such offenders is unjustified."

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