A SMART choice: take public transportation, such as a SMART bus from downtown Telluride to Lawson Hill this holiday weekend, or designate a driver. (Photo courtesy of the San Miguel Authority for Regional Transportation/Facebook)

During Thanksgiving Week last year, 354 impaired drivers were arrested on Colorado roadways — and that was during a period when many people weren’t traveling.

This year, people are gathering once again. Which means state patrollers will likely be swarming the roads: “There will probably be more patrollers out there,” warns Glenn Davis, CDOT’s highway safety manager, “and they won’t just be looking for impaired drivers,” he added. “Patrollers will be stopping people for speeding, and for lane deviation,” and other misbehavior caused by too much holiday cheer, and too little attention at the wheel.

“You have the luxury of living in one of the most beautiful places in the state,” Davis went on, “but you don’t have all of the choices we do on the Front Range” when it comes to sober rides.

“According to their websites, both Uber and Lyft are available in Telluride,” Davis said. There are much less expensive ways of getting home safely, however. If you live in Telluride, you don’t even have to walk: The Galloping Goose runs every 15 minutes, seven days a week (with no break on Thanksgiving), on a loop through downtown.

The Goose transports riders until 8 p.m. every night. Other local buses will be running even longer.

“It’ll be business as usual for us on Thanksgiving,” said David Averill, executive director for the San Miguel Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART). “The SMART bus’s Lawson Hill route runs pretty deep into the evening — until 10 p.m.,” Averill said. “It’s a pretty good ride from, say, a Thanksgiving dinner in town.

“At Christmas, the Lawson bus will still run our regular schedules,” Averill said. “But people tend to be home for the holidays” rather than partying late into the night.

“New Year’s Eve transport is being discussed for this year,” he added. The special service was underutilized in 2019, the last year it was offered. “I think we gave two people a ride home on a 40-foot bus,” he said wryly. “It wasn’t super cost effective, but it was still the right thing to do.”

There is a wonderful conveyance, free and open to all, he added: The gondola, which runs nightly until midnight. As Averill said bluntly: “We’re lucky to have that thing.”

For those who live farther outside of town and simply must drive home, the safest option for navigating the roads safely during any holiday weekends is to designate a driver.

“We encourage people to monitor their drinking, but that’s hard,” Davis said. “When people have a low level of alcohol in their system and they’re offered a chance to drive, they tend to say no: ‘That’s not safe.’ When they ingest a higher level of alcohol and they’re offered the keys, their judgment shifts: they say, ‘Sure, I can drive.’ Your judgment is never affected for the better” when you’re under the influence.

It’s a particularly dangerous time to risk a DUI, he added. Given the prevalence of Covid in Colorado “and the lack of emergency room (and ICU) beds, it’s a community responsibility to avoid the preventable things that put people in the hospital. The hospitals are busy enough under normal conditions.”

Drivers also have a responsibility “to other roadway users,” Davis said.

“A DUI is a huge inconvenience,” but if you receive one, “you’re one of the lucky ones,” he stressed, because “you were arrested pre-crash. A DUI is expensive and inconvenient and it turns your life around. But a crash changes your life.”