Program Type

Transportation Alternative

Program Location:


Lead Agency:

Minnesota Safe Ride



Isanti County District Court, 10th Judicial District
Minnesota Beer Wholesalers Association
Minnesota Department of Public Safety
Center for Excellence in Rural Safety (CERS), University of Minnesota
Approximately 10 Isanti County bars
McDonald Distributing, Inc.
The Issue: Prevention

Program Target Population:

General Public

Program Description:

The SAFE CAB Program aims to prevent drunk driving in Isanti County, MN and provide a safe and sober transportation alternative home through a taxi service.

Judge James Dehn of the 10th Judicial District began monitoring, over a 7-year period, the last place of drink for convicted DWI offenders. He then shared this information with those establishments and offered them an opportunity to address the issue of drunk driving. As a result, local bars and a local community group, Toward Zero Deaths (TZD), formed a partnership and held regular meetings to discuss how they could better train servers, reduce over-serving and deal with problem drinkers. The partners also activated the local media’s interest and subsequently developed the SAFE CAB Program.

In Isanti County, SAFE CAB provides free rides home from bars every Wednesday through Saturday night.  It is only possible through the collaboration between law enforcement, bar owners and cab companies. A key component of the program is to prevent vehicles left behind by potential drunk drivers from being ticketed or towed by law enforcement. The drivers are given a date-sensitive sign to display on their dashboard that is clear for law enforcement to see and indicates the drivers’ intent to return to the vehicle when they are sober.

Program Effectiveness:

This program is a model for rural communities across America. Isanti County has shown a 64% decrease in DWIs since the program’s inception in 2005. In participating bars, impaired driving offenses have been reduced by as much as 83% according to data compiled by the University of Minnesota and Judge Dehn. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Isanti County is ranked #1 in the state for DWI reduction in 2010. Furthermore, the program is being replicated in five other counties, with three others planning implementation.

Program Cost Effectiveness:

The equal division of costs between McDonald Distributing, Inc., the participating bars, and the Community Fund is functioning well.

Sources of Funding:

  • McDonald Distributing, Inc.
  • Participating bars (approximately 10)
  • Community Fund (fundraising efforts through Minnesota Safe Ride)
    • Local government grants
    • Charitable gambling
    • Commercial gifts (Wal-Mart, local banking establishments)
    • Donation from the Center for Alcohol Policy in Washington, D.C.
    • Individual tax-deductible gifts

 Factors to Consider When Replicating the Program:

  • Maintaining financial support from local government and charitable gambling entities
  • Negotiating with law enforcement to not issue tickets or tow away vehicles left behind
  • Spreading public awareness of the program
  • Enlisting the cooperation of the other bars and distributors in the area
  • Possessing or establishing the cab service
  • Running the cab service every night would be ideal

For more information on this program, please contact:

Judge James Dehn