JC "Sober driver" program aims to keep roads safe

Bar patrons in Jefferson City have an extra option in their arsenal of choices on how to get home if they are impaired.

Fechtel Beverage Company is sponsoring a program which allows bars and restaurants to hand out vouchers worth a $10 taxicab ride home.

Several bars in Jefferson City say they plan to make full use of the "sober driver" program, to mitigate the additional risk of so many people coming together to celebrate the holidays.

"It's crazy," said Spectators bartender Faith Prenger. "It's the busiest night of the year, and people are always like 'why? I don't understand.' It's because everybody's home, and they all come out and it's like a high school reunion,"

Prenger said she expects her bar to be filled with several hundred people on the eve of thanksgiving, and that she is going to do everything she can to keep her patrons safe.

However, not all of the bars have the vouchers. Prenger's bar only has 10 of the orange coupons. J. Pfenny's Sports Grill and Pub said they have none. A bartender at The Spot said she had not been able to obtain the vouchers in time for Thanksgiving.

Jefferson City Police Captain Doug Shoemaker said the discounted taxi rides are only one piece of the challenge to keep residents safe, and that much of the responsbility of not driving while intoxicated falls to the individual.

"We really encourage people to make that smart choice before they start the night," Shoemaker said. "Pick one person of your group that you're out with, just designate a sober driver that night. It's the easies thing to do and the smartest thing."

Organizer Bernie Fechtel said the vouchers are available from his company year-round, and that he is happy to provide the service to the city.

"It's free. If it's a problem for you to go back and get your car the next day, ask for two coupons and go back and get the car tomorrow," Fechtel said. "But, please do the right thing and make everyone's holiday good."

Jeff City Taxi manager Michael Olive said that the entire fleet of taxis will be on duty for the day preceding Thanksgiving. "The average price of a taxi ride home in Jefferson City is about seven dollars," Olive said. "That's a lot cheaper than fighting a DUI."