Evesham Twp. in South Jersey is paying the ride-sharing serivce Uber to be the designated driver for residents who have had a little too much to drink at local bars.
Under a first-of-its-kind partnership announced Thursday, the township will fully fund all Uber rides from the 19 establishments serving alcohol in Evesham from 9 p.m. through 2 a.m. until Jan. 2.
“I will never ever ever ever again go to a funeral of a young life if I can do anything about it,” said Evesham Mayor Randy Brown, after having attended three funerals for people younger than 20 who died in DUI crashes during his first few years as mayor.
“I’ve got a seven-year-old, a nine-year-old, and a 24-year-old,” he said. “So if we can do anything possible to decrease the chances of somebody losing their life is why I’m so passionate about it.”
Residents who call an Uber from an Evesham Twp. bar will have the option to choose “Evesham” on the mobile app, which will guarantee them a ride home at no cost.
The partnership comes after a one-month pilot program in which the company Sober Sam shuttled revelers home from local watering holes.
Officials say that program, which dropped off more than 350 residents at their homes, was a success. DUI arrests plummeted, and none of the drivers arrested for DUI during the course of the pilot program came from Evesham Twp. bars.
But Mayor Brown said the program can be even more successful with Uber, given the company’s technological savvy and low costs.
George Lavdas, who owns the Marlton Tavern in Evesham Twp., says his customers took full advantage of the Sober Sam program and will likely be even more apt to call an Uber.
“Technology’s a great thing. Back in the day when we were younger, I’m sure a majority of people did drive drunk because, you know, what was their option? An $82 cab ride home from Philadelphia or ‘let me just try to sneak over the bridge,'” he said.
“So with this, knowing ‘I’m going to get in the car and the expense is zero,’ it’d be foolish not to use it.”
Uber will be charging Evensham Twp. the company’s regular rates, including the more expensive “surge pricing” when demand for rides increases.
Funding for the roughly two-month program will come from the nonprofit Evesham Celebrations Foundation as well as several private donors.
Officials say no taxpayer money will be used to pay for Uber rides during this period, but the township has not ruled it out in the future.
Evesham Twp. Police Chief Christopher Chew says reducing drunk driving would undoubtedly save the municipality money. No officers would have to make arrests or investigate a crash; none would have to appear in court; prosecutors would not have to try a DUI case and a judge would not have to hear it.
“Not only that,” Chew added, but “if our officers are busy arresting people for DWI, they can’t be proactive in the community.”
Evesham Twp. is also partnering with the company BeMyDD (which stands for “be my designated driver”), a service that will pick you up at a bar and drive you and your vehicle home.
Both Uber and BeMyDD will also be available on the Evesham Twp. mobile app.