Published on September 07, 2021

Sober ride program operated by Essentia Health expanding services

A sober ride program called Northeastern Minnesota Joyride, operated by Essentia Health and the Driving 4 Safe Communities coalition, is expanding its service to include events at Bayfront Festival Park, as well as Duluth’s Oktoberfestival.

“The Twin Ports is a fun place, and we want people to be able to enjoy all that the area offers, but we also want people to get home safely after a night out,” said Allison Nicolson, Essentia’s injury prevention specialist. “This program offers people a safe alternative that is not only affordable, but utilizes existing infrastructure to connect people to a sober ride home.”

Joyride was launched in 2014 to provide an inexpensive and sober ride home from a place or business that serves alcohol. Participating locations provide vouchers that offer $5-10 off a Lyft or a taxi from participating cab companies.

“Helping people get home safely after enjoying an evening out is the essence of hospitality,” said Lucie Amundsen, director of communications for the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center. “Maybe it takes being handed a coupon and knowing that it will be an easy experience to get a ride that makes someone reconsider driving. We’re grateful for all the work that went into creating these partnerships that ultimately will make our roads safer for everyone.”

Joyride is offered in several areas of Minnesota. In some cases, there has been a 60% reduction of DUI-related deaths in areas in which it’s offered.

There is also a free Joyride app available called Northeastern Minnesota Joyride. Users can download it on their Android or Apple phones and are then able to see the list of participating locations.

According to state data for the year of 2021, through July 66 people have died in alcohol-related crashes in Minnesota. In all of 2020, 121 people died in alcohol-related crashes, an increase from 89 in 2019. In St. Louis and Carlton counties, there has been nearly 6,000 recorded DWI incidents dating back to 2016.

Joyride is funded in large part by the American Automobile Association Minnesota/Iowa, as well as by state grants and participating local businesses. Essentia does not fund the program, but operates it on behalf of several state organizations that aim to cut down on traffic fatalities. 

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