Schenectady County

Free cab ride program a holiday tradition

Martin, Harding & Mazzotti has offered its Free Ride Home program to Capital Region residents on maj

A Niskayuna law firm is taking some of the worry out of Independence Day celebrations.

Martin, Harding & Mazzotti has offered its Free Ride Home program to Capital Region residents on major holidays for more than a decade. In partnership with 13 taxi companies in the area, they offer a program in which anyone who might have had too much to drink can call and get a free ride home between noon and midnight Saturday, no questions asked.

The limitation: The program will only take people home, not to the next party.

Cities in the program’s coverage area include Albany, Amsterdam, Saratoga Springs, Schenectady and Troy. Over the years, it expanded westward to Utica, as well as to towns outside the state, including Springfield, Massachusetts, and Burlington, Vermont.

More information is available on Martin, Harding & Mazzotti’s website at

“One of the reasons we started the program was because we often see cases of people who have lost somebody or have sustained serious injury because of a drunk driver,” said managing attorney Dan Dagostino. “We’ve watched families being torn apart, and communities become distraught over these incidents, so we decided to identify major drinking holidays and make ourselves a part of everyone’s plan.”

According to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, there were more than 8,000 reported alcohol-related crashes in 2013. Over half resulted in personal injury, and more than 350 led to death.

Martin, Harding & Mazzotti also instituted a Partner Program as a part of the initiative, in which local businesses and organizations can become a partner at no cost. They simply promote the program to customers and members while spreading the safe driving message.

Jason Hayes, owner of Blue82 lounge in Albany, has been a part of the Partner Program since his business opened 10 years ago.

“I can’t say enough about the program,” he said. “It’s a great benefit to our customers on the big holidays. People sometimes don’t plan on drinking as much as they do, so it’s important to have that backup plan.”

Hayes said he promotes the program with flyers and on social media, and encourages his staff to offer its services to customers if they think it might be unsafe for someone to drive home.

“We have no problem calling or letting customers use our phone to call a taxi if it means they’ll get home safely,” he added.

The Niskayuna Community Action Program is one of the program’s newer partners, having signed on nearly a year ago.

“The goal of the program just matches really well with what N-CAP does,” said Kristin Sweeter, grant coordinator for the coalition. “We joined this campaign because it’s another way to promote responsible and safe habits for our community, especially around graduation season. The lawyers make it an easy message to promote, so it’s just about pushing that message as far as we can.”

From partners to participants, Martin, Harding & Mazzotti have launched several efforts to make the Free Ride Home program accessible. The most significant — a smartphone app — will be available for the first time this Fourth of July.

The app is compatible with both iPhone and Android and is available by searching for “MHM taxi” in either application’s store. From there, riders can download a certificate, fill in their personal information and designate a pickup time and location. The certificate will be verified by the taxi driver before providing the free ride.

Dagostino said the program so far has worked out well, and he’s looking forward to its continued success.

“This program is near and dear to my heart,” he added. “I just hope people take advantage of it and stay safe.”

Sweeter echoed Dagostino’s thoughts.

“It’s better to be safe than sorry, and it’s corny but it’s true,” she said. “Even one drink is too many. Your life is worth more.”

Categories: Business

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