ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — One of the year’s biggest drinking holidays is coming up this week, and the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office says it will offer free rides to inebriated residents to get them home without an accident.
“Blackout Wednesday” has been the name given to the night before Thanksgiving.
“It’s a big, big party night. I believe it’s bigger than New Year’s Eve,” said Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana.
The department’s “Safe Ride Home” program is paid for by LaMonica Beverages, and offers a lift home from after a night of excessive revelry.
Those in need of a ride can call the Sheriff’s Department’s non-emergency phone number, (815) 282-2600, and a deputy will pick them up.
“I think there’s a lot of attention to the DUI and intoxication on New Year’s Eve, and everybody takes their eyes off this holiday, which is a holiday weekend,” Caruana said. “You have four days off, there’s people traveling from all over the United States to come home.”
Caruana said he expects a lot of people to use the service, especially now that the Rockford Casino: A Hard Rock Opening Act has opened.
“If they need a ride home from there, they’re having a good time out there with their family, this is the new you know entity that just opened up, we want to make sure that they get rides home from the Hard Rock,” Caruana said.
“Safe Ride Home” runs from 11 p.m. on Wednesday until 3 a.m. on Thursday.
“It’s a huge option for people to have a convenient way to get home. Go out, have a good time, indulge responsibly, and it’s a lot cheaper than a DUI,” said Rita Kreslin, Executive Director of Alliance Against Impaired Motorists. “It’s a convenient way for people to have a safe way home.”
The Alliance Against Impaired Motorists, or AAIM, is a non-profit that helps families across Illinois who have lost loved ones because someone chose to drive under the influence. Kreslin got involved after her son was killed in a drunk driving crash when he was 19.
“People never think that something like that is going to happen to them, and the reality is our young people don’t often make a plan ahead to do a ride share, to do an Uber or a Lyft,” Kreslin said.
She hopes the initiative will help prevent further tragedies on one of the most dangerous nights for drivers.
“One of the things I’ve always stressed is that 9 times out of 10, if you have a plan, you’ll make the right decision,” Kreslin said.