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CASPER — A program designed to curb drunken driving with free cab rides has been used by about 75 people since it began two weeks ago, Casper police said.

The Tipsy Taxi service provides people at bars and private parties with vouchers for free taxi rides home if they’ve had too much to drink. The year-round program is being offered through a partnership involving law enforcement, cab companies and Natrona County liquor dealers.

Casper Crime Prevention Officer Sara Nelson said the vouchers have been used by customers at several area bars, as well as some restaurants and liquor stores.

“They are using these vouchers quite a bit,” she said Wednesday. “That’s what it is for. They are really liking the program.”

The Tipsy Taxi service was created with the hope of cutting down on the number of drunken drivers in Natrona County, where arrests for driving under the influence have been on a steady rise since at least 2005.

Nelson said it’s still too early to determine the program’s impact on those crimes. However, she plans to release data on Tipsy Taxi’s first month sometime in January.

“I think it is a good thing for the community to try this avenue and see if it makes an impact on our DUIs and our public (intoxication arrests),” she said.

Most Casper-area bars are participating in the program, said Van Galloway, president of the Natrona County Liquor Dealers’ Association.

“So far it seems to be working well,” he said.

The Tipsy Taxi program relies on financial support from nonprofit groups, as well as private donations. It does not use public money, but the Casper Police Department is helping to oversee the service to ensure it’s not abused.

Organizers modeled the service on a Pitkin County, Colo., program that’s been in operation since 1983. An evaluation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that injury crashes in Pitkin County declined by 15 percent after the program began.

Casper police made 602 drunken driving arrests last year — an all-time high for the city. Arrests for driving under the influence have increased by more than 60 percent since 2005.

Contact Joshua Wolfson at josh.wolfson@trib.com or 307-266-0582.

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