If you want to avoid riding home in a squad car this New Year’s Eve, hop a bus instead.
All public transportation will be free in the Twin Cities to discourage drunken driving. On Monday, holiday revelers are encouraged to catch a sober ride home on Metro Transit, where buses, light rail and commuter lines are waiving fares from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Same goes for Minnesota Valley Transit Authority and Anoka Transit routes. No coupons or vouchers required, just climb aboard and take a seat.
This is the 31st year for the Miller Lite Free Rides program, which has provided more than 5.5 million riders from five Midwest cities with a safe ride home. It’s the eighth year Metro Transit has partnered with the company. The community service program, which partners with J.J. Taylor Distributing to underwrite the costs for free rides, prevents scores of New Year’s Eve celebrants from risking a hefty ticket or a night behind bars after the party has stopped rolling.
For more information, call 1-800-FREE-RIDES or visit MillerLiteFreeRides.com.
In the southwest metro, local law enforcement also plans ahead for one of the busiest bar nights of the year.
The Shakopee Police Department teams up with the city’s cab and transportation companies to escort partyers home while the Police Department foots the bill.
Shakopee residents simply have to download a coupon from the Police Department’s website. Nonresidents can get $10 off cab fare through the program between 9 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. on New Year’s Eve.
Officials say the free ride programs are meant to incentivize those who might normally get behind the wheel after a few drinks to instead plan ahead for a designated driver.
Over the past five years, 28 people have died on Minnesota roads in drunken driving-related crashes between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, and nearly 13,000 people were arrested for drunken driving during the five-week holiday period, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
“If you feel different, you drive different,” the agency said in a news release, “whether it’s from alcohol, a prescription or any other drug.”
Of the 350 deaths on Minnesota roads so far this year, approximately 31 percent — or 109 fatalities — were alcohol-related.