Over 34 years ago at Lake Tahoe, several hard-partying friends decided there must be a better way to get home from a night out drinking in our local casinos than to try the usually dangerous and costly practice of trying to dodge the cops and drive themselves home (bad idea then, a worse idea now).
In 1985 Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was just getting started, DUI fines were going up and the Tahoe Casinos were still giving away free drinks at an irresponsible rate. The need for a safe ride home was born! The International Good Samaritans Safe Ride Program (a big name idea in a small town) was started to provide teams of sober designated drivers to be on call by beepers (all we had then) to respond to any calls from intoxicated drivers, their friends, or the bartenders who didn’t want their customers to drink and then drive themselves home.
Over 34 years of saving lives
It was quickly realized that this safe ride service needed to be free. Many intoxicated people didn’t want to go home until they were out of money. We needed to get their cars home too (no I would not leave my car behind as I need it in the morning!) The International Good Samaritans Safe Ride Program (IGS) plan was to start a 501c3 nonprofit charity and provide two sober drivers per team, one IGS driver to follow the other IGS driver in the intoxicated driver’s car along with the intoxicated person and all their friends to point the way home (not always easy but always free!)
Many regulations and much attention was given to this new safe ride start-up program, and many bars, their patrons, and the police watched to see what was going to happen with this new idea.
Miracle of miracles! The Program worked! During the first 10 years of service more than 50,000 carefully documented safe rides were given to intoxicated drivers and their intoxicated passengers, and their cars were safely delivered home by a small group of dedicated sober (My turn to drink, Your turn to drive) volunteers. For the first time in Tahoe history, DUI deaths and DUI crashes decreased as reported by the South Tahoe Police Dept.
Now for The FUN part of this story! To keep these safe rides free, IGS decided to host an annual fundraiser based on the 50’s lifestyle and 50’s cars and call it Cool September Days Car, Truck, Motorcycle and Vintage Camper Show. Along with an old car show, IGS would put on a 50’s style Sock Hop with dance, dress-up and hairdo contests and at mid-night at the Hop as a grand prize IGS would give away a locally donated and restored old car on a $1 raffle ticket.
A lot of things have changed over the past 30 years but the Good Samaritans Safe Ride Program is still alive and well in Tahoe and the 30th annual Cool September Days Car Show was held at the South Lake Tahoe Heavenly Village shopping center on September 18-20, 2015.
Over the 30 years of this safe ride programs history, many different cars, trucks, and motorcycles have been located, donated, and restored to be used in IGS’ fundraiser raffles, from a 1953 Buick Special in 1986, to a 500hp Ford PU and new Harley in 2002, to a grand prize of a 1953 Chevy Sedan Delivery with a new teardrop trailer all set up to go camping in 2010.
IGS volunteers would like to invite everyone with an interest in vintage cars and/or campers or motorcycles to come to Lake Tahoe for the day or for one of our weekend shows at the Heavenly Village Shopping Center (near the Gondola). This package will be given away October 18th, 2020.
To date, more than 100,000 intoxicated drivers and their friends have been delivered safely home in the Tahoe area and much effort has been made to help start safe ride programs in other cities all around America. Many lives have been saved and many millions of dollars of damage has been avoided thanks to your generous donations for raffle tickets or when you attend one of our Car Shows. Get your raffle tickets here.
Thank you for 34 years and counting!
Tom and Polly Argo
PO Box 7007, Stateline NV 89449