A designated driver is more than a sober friend behind the wheel; these unsung heroes are saving lives each day. However, not everyone has a good friend willing to be that sober ride home after a night of drinking, thereby creating a public safety issue by those who choose to drive while intoxicated. In Wisconsin, the pervasive problem of drunk drivers has led to the establishment of a statewide designated driver program, SafeRide, which allows anyone the safety of a free, safe ride home.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Wisconsin has the highest rate of drunken driving in the nation, yet, driving while intoxicated (DWI) convictions in the state continue to rise, despite tougher laws and penalties. These penalties include the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) for some first-time offenses and court fines that contribute to the SafeRide designated driver program. Managed by the Tavern League of Wisconsin (TLW), in conjunction with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), the program is reducing the number of drunk drivers on the road. In fact, SafeRide documented over 70,000 “riders” in 2012-2013, which translates to 70,000 less accidents, injuries or deaths caused by a drunk driver. SafeRide drivers can be local taxi companies, paid designated driver services, or even a “good Samaritan” in areas without those services already available.
Designated drivers, whether taxi drivers or a local group of concerned citizens, can make a big difference in the safety of everyone on the road. While Wisconsin may have a long way to go in reforming its current drunk driving laws, many look at the SafeRide program as an effective way to ensure the safety of all residents in the state.