By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen

Snellville’s CopCab - making a positive difference
By Dave Emanuel

An automotive centaur of sorts, Snellville’s “CopCab” appears to be half police car, half taxi cab. However, in spite of its seeming “dual personality”, the vehicle is intended to neither carry fare-paying passengers nor to enforce laws.

Rather, its design serves to increase awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving.

Snellville isn’t the first city to have a “CopCab”, yet with City Councilman Bobby Howard at the controls, its version has achieved an unmatched level of impact—all of it positive. Howard rarely misses an opportunity to use the CopCab to deliver its message to make the right choice, and avoid the potential disasters that can result from getting into the driver’s seat while under the influence of alcohol.

CopCab190Certainly, no one wants to be saddled with the anguish of knowing he or she caused injury or death as a result of making the foolish decision to drive after having a bit too much to drink. Yet even if an intoxicated driver is not involved in an accident, a DUI citation can literally cost thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees. Hence the CopCab’s message, “Choose Your Ride”; the choice is between a $20 or $30 cab ride home, or a ride to jail in the back seat of a police car, at a cost of several thousand dollars.

For Howard, the message is personal. As a 16-year old, he got behind the wheel after having too much to drink, and flipped his car several times. With only minor injuries to himself, Howard escaped serious consequences—he got the second chance many other people have been denied. According to Howard, “The outcome could have been so very different for everybody, and my hope is that my story hits home and causes someone to make the right decision to call a cab instead of trying to drive home.”

During a recent ride-along in the Snellville CopCab, I saw for myself the positive impact it is having on the community. Whether we were driving, parked or even in a gas station filling the tank, people gave us a “thumbs up”, stopped to take photos or asked for details about the car. Although some were disappointed that the CopCab didn’t provide free rides home, they clearly got the “Choose your ride’ message. 

The most positive proof of the CopCab’s effectiveness came about a half hour after being parked outside a restaurant during a particularly festive evening. As we discussed the CopCab and its message with people entering and leaving the restaurant, a taxi rolled up and a customer, who obviously should not have been driving, walked out and got in. 

We can’t say for sure that the CopCab inspired that particular person to call a cab. However, the “Choose your ride” message obviously resonated with people who saw the CopCab on one side of the restaurant’s front door, and a taxi with a fare-paying customer on the other.

In addition getting its message out by driving it on area roads and highways and taking it to group and association meetings, Howard also puts the CopCab on display at a wide variety of events. Most recently, it was on hand (usually with lights flashing) in front of the entrance to the inaugural Wisteria Public Market, at Snellville Days, Grayson Day, the Snellville Beach Blast and the Snellville Farmers’ Market. 

The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety has been sufficiently impressed with Snellville’s CopCab that it extended invitations to Howard to display it at two of the agency’s public functions—one at Atlanta Motor speedway and the other at an awards ceremony in Macon.

Snellville’s CopCab is funded entirely by private donations, demonstrating once again, the positive effect of individuals working together to benefit their community.    

Dave Emanuel is Vice President of Random Technologies, a manufacturing company in Loganville, and a Snellville City Councilman. To read more from Dave Emanuel visit http://www.cuttothe-chase.net