Safe ride programs operating in Minnesota come in a spectrum of shapes and sizes, from those that provide alternative transportation services only during a particular community festival or holiday to professional year-round services. Most Minnesota safe ride programs offer only rides home from drinking establishments where a patron leaves his or her vehicle overnight, presumably to pick it up at a later time when he or she is sober. Some programs, however, offer rides to, between, and home from bars or offer a combination of both models.
Programs operate in larger metropolitan areas where users also have access to public transportation and in rural communities where users have few alternative transportation choices. In one Minnesota community that was too small to offer any public transportation options, the police department stepped in and created a program that gives drinking residents a safe ride home without legal consequences.
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Some safe ride programs are provided by businesses that include the alcohol-serving establishment, while others are run by nonprofit groups or community collaborations formed solely to provide impaired drivers a sober ride home. Safe ride programs can operate using unpaid volunteers or support a revenue-generating business—and several programs combine the resources of multiple local businesses to support a program.
Cost to the patron varies significantly among programs; some services offer free rides, some charge a small fee, some subsidize the cost of rides, and others are paid for entirely by the patron. Bars, restaurants, local beer distributors, businesses, and community groups often contribute to the cost of providing reduced-cost ride services. At least one Minnesota community group has formed a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that enables it to accept gaming receipts to offset safe ride program costs.
In the program profiles section, safe ride programs operating in different areas of Minnesota are profiled. Each program developed independently of the others, maintains different levels of business and community involvement, and possesses unique aspects that contribute to its success. Communities considering a safe ride program can read these profiles and gain insight into the type of program that might work well in their own community. (Editor’s note: Since publication of this information, the Quad Cities’ program has been discontinued.)