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JOYRIDE looking to expand in second year

Organizers of the local sober ride program known as JOYRIDE say the initiative has thrived in its first year, and will expand in year two.

Perham, Ottertail and Battle Lake have been participating in the program, which was started last summer by the Safe Communities Coalition of Otter Tail County.

JOYRIDE targets rural areas that have no late night public transit options and limited or nonexistent taxicab service. The program’s tagline is “Good Times Delivered,” since its goal is to get people to go out and enjoy community bars and restaurants, then get home safely. 

The program began with a meeting of elected officials, law enforcement, coalition members and bar and restaurant managers, who got together to gauge interest and collect information about what was needed to make JOYRIDE a success. 

“We finished that meeting feeling very optimistic, but aware of how difficult these programs are to operate,” stated coalition member Jane Patrick in a press release.

Most sober ride programs face steep challenges in funding, transportation options and behavior changes of bar and restaurant patrons.

While safety is the driving force behind these programs, with some communities reporting a 50 percent reduction in DWIs after offering sober rides home, JOYRIDE aims to be seen as fun and easy for patrons.

The program is also about economic development, making bars and restaurants more easily accessible to everyone.

Anderson Bus Service of Frazee provides rides from 10:30 p.m. to closing time.  In the past, the bus has picked up at Whiskey River, The Brew, The Otter and Thumper Pond. These establishments paid an initial fee while the program was also given donations. Riders bought a $7 ticket.

Additional establishments are currently being sought to participate. Recruitment efforts will continue throughout the year.

The bus schedule will be: Friday, Nov. 1 for Halloween, the Wednesday before and the Friday after Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, and fishing opener through Labor Day weekend.

Impaired driving cost Otter Tail County $7.1 million between 2010 and 2012, and 10 people lost their lives in alcohol-related accidents.

The Safe Communities Coalition of Otter Tail County’s focus is on making the roads safer by promoting seat belt use, sober driving, attentive driving and responsible hosting. It has been in existence since 2005.