Safe Rides for the Holidays

This article was written by Kathy Cooper, a member of the Northfield Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Alcohol and Drug Use.

Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season and reminds us of all the things we are thankful for — like family and friends.  I am also thankful that through the work of the Northfield Mayor's Task Force on Youth Alcohol and Drug Use and the Rice County Toward Zero Deaths Safe Roads Coalition, there is hope for a future without underage drinking and drug use and even without drunk driving.  Working with wonderful organizations like MADD, Minnesotans for Safe Driving, and the Rice County Chemical Health Coalition we have been able to do some amazing things together this year.

At a news conference last week to kick off the DWI enforcement for the holidays with the Rice County MOD Squad, Lt. Heath Dienger of the State Patrol summed it up when he stated "each one of our holiday parties is planned right down to what item (meal) each person will bring.  One of the things we should also plan for is a safe ride home."  Just in the days since that news conference several drivers have been arrested for DWI in Faribault and Northfield.  What will their holidays be like for their families if they are sitting in jail or using all their resources to bail out and hire an attorney?  

Alcohol doesn’t need to be part of our holiday celebrations in order to have a good time, but when it is, we can help ensure our family and friends always have a safe ride home if needed. The SMART RIDE sober cab program is available in Northfield and Dundas.  There are 11 participating establishments that will give a free ride voucher to patrons that are too impaired to drive.  The rides are paid for by the participating liquor establishments, College City Beverage, and a fund set up with DWI forfeiture money.  You can also purchase prepaid $5.00 safe and sober ride cards from First Choice Shuttle (507-645-4447) to give to your loved ones.  You can give the gift of a designated driver and offer rides to those that you see have imbibed too much either at your home or the local liquor establishment.  You can offer non-alcoholic beverages along with food at your holiday party.  You can make sure that alcohol is not available for underage youth.  We all have a part to play; we are all in this together.  Need we be reminded that our loved ones are on the roads every day.  Let’s help ensure their safety.

My daughter uses this in her class: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." Dr. Seuss, The Lorax.  All of us do care: drinking responsibly, helping make sure underage youth do not have access to alcohol and ensuring safety on the roads are all ways things can get better.