LOS ANGELES -- Mortuary attendants served coffee in a cemetery New Year's Eve because they believed it might be a sobering experience for drivers who have had one too many.
Robert Wheeler, vice president of the Forest Lawn mortuary service, said coffee would be provided at the firm's four Los Angeles mortuaries to motorists who were either drunk or simply groggy from late-night parties.
The mortuaries have provided the same service for the past 14 years.
'The knowledge that we're here waiting for them may be a deterrent to people who drink and drive,' Wheeler said. 'Many of them already know what our mortuary reception rooms look like and remember the tragic circumstances that brought them there.
'If the thought of that prevents an additonal tragedy and helps them to cut down to the point where they won't need coffee and won't need us, we're glad.'
Over 4,000 motorists have taken advantage of the free coffee in the past 14 years and 300 were are expected this year, although Wheeler said he did not know what effect the state's new tough drunken driving laws, which goes into effect Jan. 1, would have on attendance.
The coffee tradition began when two sailors stopped in at their Cypress mortuary, and asked for a cup of coffee because they had been drinking.
'We've been offering coffee at each of our mortuaries every New Year's Eve ever since,' Wheeler said. 'As far as we know, we're the only mortuary in the country that offers such a service.'