ESCANABA - Those looking for a safe ride home have one more reason to celebrate this New Year's Eve as the Liferides program returns to Delta County for its 30th year.
The program, which aims to reduce alcohol-related traffic accidents, is sponsored by OSF St. Francis Hospital & Medical Group and the Island Resort & Casino, and will provide free rides to those celebrating the new year from 11 p.m. on Dec. 31 through 5 a.m. on Jan. 1.
JN Taxi and Escanaba Taxi will be offering rides throughout Delta County during this time with assistance from City Cab of Gladstone, which will also offer rides within Gladstone. Those in need of a ride in Escanaba should call 786-4448 or 786-1122. Rides in Gladstone can be requested by calling 420-2939.
"When they call for a ride they should specify they want a New Year's Eve Liferide," said Lanna Scannel, community & government relations manager and director of development at OSF St. Francis Hospital & Medical Group.
Bus service for passengers traveling shorter distances will be available from Charter Celebration. The buses will be traveling along the main streets of Escanaba and Gladstone. No phone calls are needed for bus service.
When the Liferides program was started in 1983, New Year's Eve was chosen because of its association with parties and celebrations involving alcohol and a high number of alcohol-related traffic accidents and fatalities. Since the program began there have been no alcohol-related traffic accidents or fatalities in Delta County over the holiday.
Last year 622 passengers used taxi services through Liferides. While there is no count for the number of passengers who took advantage of the Liferides bus services, Scannel notes that serving more than 700 passengers on New Year's Eve by bus or taxi is typical.
"It's a little higher when (New Year's Eve) falls on a weekend but not substantially so," she added.
Those who choose not to take advantage of the program are encouraged to plan ahead and choose a designated driver, make plans to stay at a hotel, or with friends or family rather than driving after they have been drinking. However, the program is designed to give people celebrating another option to avoid getting behind the wheel.
"Liferides is a program in which the whole community participates. By planning ahead and making sure people who've had too much to drink do not get behind a wheel, we can keep our highways safe and prevent tragedies," said Angie Shiverski, special services manager for the Island Resort & Casino.
While OSF St. Francis Hospital & Medical Group and the Island Resort & Casino are the major sponsors of the Liferides program, other community members and groups have contributed to Liferides over the years. This year, sponsors include the Heart of the North Lions Club, Baybank, the Escanaba Rotary Club, the Sackerson Foundation, Escanaba area credit unions, the Escanaba Noon Kiwanis, the Community Foundation, Substance Abuse and Violence Education Council, Skradski-Boyce Funeral Homes, the General Federation of Women's Clubs, and Bay College.
Donations to the Liferides program are tax-deductible and can be sent to the OSF Foundation at 3401 Ludington St., Escanaba, 49829. All checks should be made payable to the OSF Foundation and designated for "Liferides."