Taxi time: It’s the biggest day of the year for cab drivers

Beach Street Taxi owner Amy Hartmann and her drivers expect a very busy New Year’s Eve.

The evening hours of New Year’s Eve and early morning hours of New Year’s Day are the busiest and, potentially, grossest time of year for local taxicab operators.

“There’ll be a shortage of taxis around 4 a.m. in the morning,” promised Lee James of Acab Company in Destin. “It’s a busy night.”

He offered suggestions to New Year’s revelers.

For a beginning-of-the-evening pickup, call a taxicab at least 45 minutes ahead of time and, if it can come earlier, take advantage of the opportunity. When it’s time to go home, be patient, because there won’t be enough taxis on the road to handle immediately the flood of post-12:00:01 partiers.

James added that there’s so much business the night of Dec. 31 and morning of Jan. 1 that a lot of cab companies call each other with business referrals.

The boom time can be attributed to tougher drinking and driving laws, as well as one of the area’s principal constituents, the military. A DUI citation could be very costly professionally for a serviceman who gets caught, said James.

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office will be out in force, noting that it’s taking part in the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign.

“Zero tolerance” will be the mode of operation if lawmen suspect drunken driving, according to a Sheriff’s Office press release. Which is why Amy Hartmann, owner of Beach Street Taxi in Destin, is preparing for a high-demand night.

“It’s not just me,” she added. “Everybody pulls in extra vehicles and extra drivers.”

Her drivers take fares most often to HarborWalk Village in Destin and Sandestin’s Village of Baytowne Wharf, both of which offer street parties and fireworks at midnight.

Hartmann, like other cab company owners, expects a very profitable 24 hours of operation.

That means using six-passenger minivans and having plastic trashcans at the ready.

The can is a vomit bucket for which she’ll charge the user $10 because the person is obligated to take it along when finished.

“If someone were to get sick in my cab, that stops me from doing business,” explained Hartmann, a veteran driver.

Her drivers also are alert for people too intoxicated to handle. In the past, Hartmann has called lawmen to assist badly impaired partygoers who were without friends to help them.

Managing the mildly drunken or tipsy is much less of a problem. “My drivers are pretty much used to driving intoxicated people,” she said. “My nighttime drivers, anyway.”