Safe ride funding can't keep up with demand - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Safe ride funding can't keep up with demand

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by Colby Robertson

MARATHON COUNTY (WAOW) -- Marathon County bars and restaurants are running out of safe ride home vouchers. Some feel it may put more drunk drivers on the road.

But, Tavern League leaders argue they don't have the money to keep up with the demand for the vouchers, so people need to plan ahead.

The coordinator of the Safe Ride Home Program, Jim Treu says, "The safe ride is around to help people out, but it shouldn't be a crutch for everyone to use."

These signs are posted throughout bars in Marathon County. The idea is if you're out and have too much to drink, you can ask the bartender for a voucher and get a safe ride home, but Tavern League leaders say customers expect the free ride home and that shouldn't be the case.

Treu says, "We find that some people are planning on that ride as they go out at night which isn't a bad thing, but the funding isn't there for everybody to use as they want to use it. It's made for the occasional use as a tool to get home."

Bob Gajewski is the owner of R.J's Bullshooters Saloon in Weston. He says they try and have at least 25 vouchers heading into a busy weekend, but sometimes they do run out.

Gajewski says, "You can't plan to have enough for as many people as we get here. Sometimes I think the say the safe ride program is advertised on television can sometimes give people the impression that everyone should have 300."

It costs the bar owner $6 per voucher. The Tavern League then has to pay the rest of the cab fair to taxi companies. Vicky Frost, Vice President of All American Taxi says at the end of each month she sends the Tavern League a bill for close to $3,000.

Frost says, "We did 52 calls in two hours on New Years Eve, just on the last call vouchers."

Tavern League leaders and bar owners say it's a good thing that people are using the program, but they can't depend on it. They need to plan ahead whether it's a sober ride home or paying for a cab.

On average it costs the tavern league $60,000 to run the safe ride home program.

The owner of Bullshooters has started to make his own arrangements to get his customers home safely. On nights when they have concerts, the owner will get a limo to drive people home for $5 a person. He says last weekend about 25 people used it. That's 25 people who didn't get behind the wheel drunk.

Online Reporter: Colby Robertson

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