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Port: North Dakota's innovative and successful sober ride program is expanding

Just one DUI trial can cost the taxpayers well in excess of the $8,000 spent earlier this year on getting 800 North Dakotans home safely.

PHOTO: Brent Sanford and sober ride program
North Dakota Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford unveils the state Department of Transportation's new sober ride program at the Capitol on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Bismarck. (Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service)
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MINOT, N.D. — Earlier this year the State of North Dakota took 800 presumably impaired drivers off the road at a cost of just $8,000 , which is less than just a single DUI checkpoint or saturation patrol might cost.

And that wasn't even a bill the taxpayers had to pay. The money came from a grant from the AAA Foundation .

I'm talking about the Sober Ride program, which provides $10 vouchers for people choosing a rideshare instead of their own vehicle to get home after a night of libations.

The program is back for Halloween. From Friday through Sunday, Oct. 29 to 31, while the funding lasts, North Dakotans can use the code “VZHALLOWEEN1” in their Lyft app to get a $10 voucher for a ride home.



I'm happy the state is doing this again, but perhaps the even happier news is that the program is getting more support from the private sector. The AAA folks are kicking in again, but so is the hospitality industry. "Codes are sponsored by AAA – The Auto Club Group, McQuade Distributing Co. and the Stadium Sports Bar & The Lodge," the Jamestown Sun reports .

What's more, the state is soliciting more backers for the program. "Companies interested in becoming a part of the solution can sponsor ND Sober Ride by contacting Bjork at lbjork@nd.gov ," the Sun report tells us.

The rise of ride-share services has already been a positive for the drunk driving problem. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Associatio n, ride shares reduced the number of deaths and injuries and arrests related to drunk driving.

Drinking, for better or worse, is a part of our culture in North Dakota. We also have a lot of long roads home in our mostly rural state. Those things add up to a persistent drunk driving problem that we've mostly tried to solve through stiffer enforcement and steeper penalties in the criminal justice system, both of which come with enormous costs to the taxpayers.

Just one DUI trial can cost the taxpayers well in excess of the $8,000 spent earlier this year on getting 800 North Dakotans home safely.

This program isn't a silver bullet for the drunk driving problem. Rideshare services, though available in most of our state's larger cities, aren't an option for rural citizens. And the vouchers only work when someone who has been drinking makes the smart choice to use one.

Detractors also say that these vouchers are only subsidizing the drunks.

Yet people are going to drink whether we have rideshare vouchers available or not. The vouchers ensure that at least some of the drinkers get a safe ride home, at almost zero cost to the taxpayers, as opposed to driving drunk.


That's a policy outcome worth pursuing.

North Dakota should continue and expand the sober ride program.

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com .

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Rob Port

Rob Port column sig
Rob Port

Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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