ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Once a year, the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office offers free rides home to those who may have had a few too many drinks on New Year’s Eve.

Now, the department wants to expand the service to “Blackout Wednesday”, the night before Thanksgiving.

Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana said, “We know that the day before Thanksgiving is a big day for the liquor establishments. People home for college, or people coming from all over to be with their family, it’s a long weekend, and it kind of kicks off the holiday season.”

The Sheriff’s Office will be helping people get home safely on Thanksgiving Eve.

Hayes Beer Distribution Company is putting up the cash.

“All the kids are home from school. It’s a big night in our establishments,” said owner Jim Hayes. “And frankly, that’s why we though it was a great idea, collectively. It is the biggest bar night of the year.”

The Sheriff’s Office has long offered free rides home from bars on New Year’s Eve, but believe “Blackout Wednesday” — also known as “Drinksgiving” on certain college campuses — is bigger.

“I think that, sometimes, we actually have more people out on the road the day before Thanksgiving than New Year’s Eve,” Caruana said. “I tend to believe we’re going to have some pretty good numbers that night.”

The Sheriff will offer rides from 9 p.m. until 3 a.m.

“We’ve had accidents the night before Thanksgiving. Pretty serious accidents the night before Thanksgiving,” Caruana said. “I was out on the streets a couple of years ago when we had to deal with a fatal accident. I don’t want that to happen again.”

Caruana says people shouldn’t be uncomfortable accepting a ride from an officer.

“We’re not there to judge you. We’re not there to arrest you. We’re there to take you home, and we hope people take advantage of that,” Caruana said.

Rockford Rides is another company that offers a way to get home without getting behind the wheel.

Joshua Beitel, Founder and CEO of Rockford Rides said, “When I started Rockford Rides 20 months ago, my number-one goal was to protect the community of Rockford. I want to provide something that’s safe and reliable for our community.”

You can contact the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office for a free ride at 815-639-4741, but you have to go home – not to another bar.

You can call Rockford Rides at (630) 440-6691.


For more local news, download the MyStateline app (iOS) or (Android).

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram!