A program that encourages drivers in Weyburn, Sask., to exchange their car keys for a free taxi ride will be extended until January, according to the city's police chief.

Marlo Pritchard said the program, called This Ride's On Us, launched Labour Day long weekend in an effort to give people another option to get home instead of getting behind the wheel after drinking.

More than a dozen different bars and restaurants are participating in the campaign, which allows people who have been drinking to turn over their keys to the establishment's staff in exchange for a taxi voucher.

The next day, participants can pick up their keys at the police station. Pritchard said another option is for someone to keep the voucher and pay a small fee for a taxi company to drive their vehicle home.

Pritchard said so far, 50 people have signed up for a free ride and more were expected to do so over the past weekend.

"I was expecting quite a bit less," he said. "I did not expect it to be embraced like that."

Moving to 7 days a week

Based on the feedback received, Pritchard said police decided to extend the two-month pilot program until the end of January in order to offer rides through the holiday season. 

He said it will now also be offered seven days a week, instead of just over the weekend.

For him, one of the positives has been receiving requests from organizations hosting private functions. Going forward, the program will be open to private residences hosting house parties.

"I think the community has said, 'You know what, enough is enough. Let's embrace this and let's try to change the culture of drinking and driving.'"

More cars left overnight

Pritchard said police are still determining what, if any, impact the initiative has had in getting impaired drivers off the road.

Anecdotally, he said officers have spotted more vehicles left overnight — although not every vehicle was part of the campaign — and fewer impaired drivers are being pulled over during high-visibility check stops.

Asked whether the program could become permanent, Pritchard said he's not sure, but hopes something like it will continue to run in the community.