SafeRide program aims to combat impaired drivingA press release from the state says participation in the Tavern League of Wisconsin’s SafeRide Program continues increasing: It accounted for 62,358 rides in the 2009-2010 reporting period, an increase of about 8,500 rides over the previous year.
A press release from the state says participation in the Tavern League of Wisconsin’s SafeRide Program continues increasing: It accounted for 62,358 rides in the 2009-2010 reporting period, an increase of about 8,500 rides over the previous year.
It works like this: In participating establishments, patrons tell the bartender they need a safe ride home. There is no charge.
Legislators decided in 1999 to funnel funds from DWI surcharges into the program, which aims to take drunk drivers off the streets. Local tavern leagues also do SafeRide fundraising in their areas.
The money pays either taxi services or mileage for Good Samaritan drivers to give impaired patrons a ride home within a 12.5-mile radius.
Jason Marks of Broz Bar in Ellsworth coordinates the SafeRide program in Pierce County. He says he welcomes more volunteers and encourages more taverns to take part.
A bar must be a Pierce County Tavern League member to participate in SafeRide, then is also required to sign up for the program.
If area taxis are still running, the bar will call one. If not, Marks said they look to a list of Good Samaritans who’ve volunteered.
He said the list goes according to geographic area -- trying to find as many volunteers in one area as possible. He said potential volunteers must be sober plus licensed and insured to drive; they all complete a short form to get on the volunteer-driver list.
He said when someone calls needing a SafeRide, they just work their way down the list until they find someone. Marks said he’s lucky to have a few good, reliable drivers in the Ellsworth area, but SafeRide needs more drivers in Pierce County.
He hopes people understand that the program operates via volunteer power and is not a for-profit business. He said people call, and they do the best they can to find the person a ride.
Marks said the need is great for more Good Samaritan volunteer drivers.
“We want a list of 20 or more,” said Marks.
He said Good Samaritans get paid $2 per mile up to 12.5 miles, so they never drive farther than 25 miles round trip. In town, it is a $5 minimum.
Some people do it on holidays or weekend nights or for a few hours here and there.
“We also want to get as many Tavern League members as we can,” Marks said, adding that the next part would be to get those members involved in SafeRide.
Several of River Falls’ establishments belong to the Pierce County Tavern League and take part in the SafeRide Program: Bo’s ’N Mine, Coach’s, Corner Saloon, Emma’s Bar, Kilkarney Hills Golf Club, Mel’s Midtowner, Shooter’s Pub and The West Wind Supper Club.
Two other options exist in River Falls for getting impaired patrons home from a bar safely: Fritz Motorsports offers on Friday and Saturday, 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., a Sober Limo ride to anywhere within city limits for $5 per person. Call 715-307-3422.
The UW-River Falls Women’s Rugby Club recently began a sober-ride service open to anyone, nearly anytime, by calling 715-222-9855; the women ask for a free-will donation and said ride availability might be limited during holiday weeks.
Marks says while these services don’t count toward state SafeRide numbers, they accomplish the objective of getting impaired people home safely.
Marks and State Tavern League Executive Director Pete Madland agree that the SafeRide program works a little bit differently in each of its areas. A combination of state, county, bar and tavern league money funds it.
Madland says the participating bars are expected to raise funds for SafeRide. Initially, it was a 50-50 split, but Madland said many counties -- like Pierce for example, which has 43 total tavern league members -- found it difficult to raise $10,000 in order to get the program’s matching funds.
The director says recently, the funding ratio changed. Now 20% of it comes from bars and 80% comes from the state.
Madland emphasizes that the “impairment” does not have to be from alcohol -- a person may be too tired to drive or under the influence of prescription drugs.
He said, “More and more people understand it is not safe to drive impaired, and our SafeRide Program is a viable alternative to doing so.”
Madland says though it takes a while for the information to disseminate and for people and taverns to participate, SafeRide is definitely growing.
There are 1,700 Tavern League members in 50 counties throughout Wisconsin offering the SafeRide Program. A participation survey says in the last year, 217 patrons in Pierce County called for it.
To get involved in the Pierce County SafeRide program -- whether to become a Tavern League member or a volunteer driver -- contact Jason Marks of Broz Bar in Ellsworth at 715-497-3894.
Learn more about the Wisconsin Tavern League and the SafeRide program online at www.tlw.org.