Donation brings back Safe Ride Home Program

LOVES PARK, Ill. (WIFR) -- A program dedicated to helping people have a safe holiday is now back in business after budget cuts threatened to take it away.

"There's uber, there's Lyft. You can call taxis. ... and now you can call a police officer," says Jax Pub bartender Sarah Louis.

Louis says she tries her best to be sure her customers have a ride home.

"Most of the time I'll have my bouncers grab them and call them a cab or something like that," says Louis.

And thanks to the Winnebago County Sheriff Department's New Year's Eve Safe Ride Home Program, there's one more option for people ringing in the new year.

"To me, this shows that the community cares and that they want to help... and they want to help out law enforcement," says Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana.

Recently, bars in Winnebago County were told that the free rides service would be no more after 4.3 million dollars in cuts to the Sheriff's Department's budget resulted in cuts to many services.

Caruana says this free rides service became a target because its need in the community has been shrinking over the last few years.

"I'm trying to save money wherever we can. and because back in the day in 1980 when they started it, you didn't have the Uber apps, you didn't have cell phones. Well now you have Lyft, Uber apps, and you could easily call someone also." says Caruana.

However, a donation from Lamonica Beverages is letting six squad cars take to the roads from 10 New Year's Eve until 5 on New Year's morning, making sure people aren't tempted to get behind the wheel beyond the legal limit.

"I'd rather have you call than you drive," says Caruana."

"If you know you're gonna be drinking that amount of liquor, you should probably have a safe ride home," sys Louis.

The Safe Ride Home program has six drivers stationed throughout Winnebago County.

To request a ride, call 815-639-4674.