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Get home safely: Joyride

Perham, Battle Lake and Ottertail are taking part in a safe ride alternative transportation program. The program, called Joyride, is run in conjunction with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office.

Expansion of the program to other parts of Otter Tail County will likely take place in the future. After the program’s launch in summer 2013, Otter Tail County Joyride provided 450 safe rides to residents and tourists who patronized local bar and restaurant establishments in and near the participating communities.

Jane Patrick, coordinator for the Safe Communities Coalition, gave an overview of the program to the County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Feb. 18.

“Because Otter Tail County continues to be one of what’s referred to as the ‘Deadliest 13’ counties in Minnesota, due to impaired driving, Joyride is designed to help reduce impaired driving crashes, injuries and deaths,” said Patrick.

Joyride began with donations from the Office of Traffic Safety, local bars, beer wholesalers, Lions Clubs, city councils, the Otter Tail Tourism Association, private community donations and patrons using the various establishments.

Shuttle buses and other shuttle services are used to transport individuals.

Joyride will operate every weekend, starting in May, with the state fishing opener. Patrick said  at least three new bars and restaurants are expected to join the program in 2014.

“Changing community norms and attitudes about impaired driving does not happen overnight,” said Patrick. “In other communities in Minnesota, safe ride programs have oftentimes taken from three to five years to become popular.”

She said it’s necessary for the programs to be self-sustaining.

“Local and community support is needed during the initial years in order to reach the point of sustainability,” said Patrick.

On Feb. 18, county commissioners gave their support to Joyride in Otter Tail County. The board, with the help of support staff, will look into the possibility of providing financial support for safe rides home.

2012 county accident data

Otter Tail County was ranked as number 13 on the list of deadliest Minnesota counties, due to impaired driving. 

During the year, there were 11 deaths on highways, with 46 percent (5 of 11) related to impaired driving. Also, 64 percent (7 of 11) involved unbelted drivers: many of whom were ejected from the vehicle during the crash. Ten of the 11 victims were county residents.