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Effectiveness: 3 Star Cost: $$
Use: Unknown
Time: Short

Alternative transportation describes methods people can use to get to and from places where they drink without having to drive. They supplement normal public transportation provided by subways, buses, and other means.

Ride service options may include for-profit and nonprofit safe rides (Barrett et al., 2017; Vanlaar, Hing, Powell, & Robertson, 2017). For-profit safe rides include transportation network companies that are on-demand and may be accessed through a mobile application. Nonprofit safe rides are free or charge minimal fees and often operate in specific regions -- near university campuses -- or at specific times such as weekends and holidays when impaired crashes occur at higher rates.

Ride services transport drinkers home from, and sometimes to and between, drinking establishments using taxis, private cars, buses, tow trucks, and even police cars. Some services drive the drinker’s car home along with the drinker. Ride service programs are relatively inexpensive and easy for communities to implement. Although it can be difficult to measure their effectiveness, they can play a role in a community’s efforts to reduce drinking and driving. For an overview, see Barrett et al. (2017), Decina et al. (2009), and Neuman et al. (2003, Strategy E1).

Use: As of April 2019 the National Directory of Designated Driver Services website listed 1,042 participating transportation providers in 787 different Counties in 41 States.

In a Traffic Injury Research Foundation multi-year survey of randomly selected American drivers 21 and older, 44% to 47%[1] said they were familiar with safe ride home programs (Vanlaar, Hing, Powell, & Robertson, 2017). Of these, 5% to 8% reported they always used such programs, and 4% said they sometimes used them. On the other hand, 87% to 91% of respondents stated they had never used safe rides programs. In the second round of data collection, 19% of respondents stated that they had used a for-profit ride share service such as Lyft or Uber after drinking. Women were more likely to rely on designated drivers than ride share services or public transportation than men. Safe-ride-home programs were used more by younger drivers than older drivers and more in urban areas than rural. Ride service programs vary considerably by region; and some in operation in North America are outlined in Barrett et al. (2017). Additional information is available on the NHTSA Buzzed Driving campaign page at

Effectiveness: Barrett et al.’s group (2017) concluded in a literature review of 40 studies that research suggests a positive association between for-profit (5 studies showing an effect, 1 study showing no effect) and nonprofit (2 studies showing effects, 1 showing mixed results) safe ride programs and the reduction of alcohol-impaired driving arrests, crashes, and fatalities. Other evaluations of nonprofit safe ride programs also found mixed results. One examined one year-round program and one holiday program. Both functioned smoothly and delivered rides, but neither demonstrated any effect on crashes (Molof et al., 1995). Another evaluation examined a year-round program in Aspen, Colorado, concluding it reduced injury crashes in the surrounding county by 15% (Lacey, Jones, & Anderson, 2000). Finally, a program using older luxury vehicles in Wisconsin that provided rides to and from bars resulted in a 17% decline in alcohol-related crashes during the first year (Rothschild et al., 2006). The program became largely self-sustaining through fares and tavern contributions. These and other programs are summarized in Decina et al. (2009). After reviewing select programs, Decina et al. (2009) concluded that a model alternative transportation program that reduces alcohol- related crashes should be continually available, free to users, convenient, and easy to use.

Costs: The major costs are for the ride service program rides. Short-term programs can be operated largely with donated rides. Year-round programs need enough steady funding to accommodate demand (Neuman et al., 2003, Strategy E1).

Time to implement: Short-term ride service programs can be established and operated informally in a few weeks. Longer-term programs need to establish long-term strategies for funding and managing the program.


[1] Range based on responses over the years of the survey.