Through the end of the year, Columbus again will serve as a test market, but this time it's not some twist on fast food.
Katja Zastrow, vice president for corporate social responsibility with Anheuser-Busch Cos., described the Columbus Safe Rides & Law Enforcement Program during a launch event Sept. 6 at the Anheuser-Busch on Schrock Road as a "unique collaboration to reduce harmful drinking in the city."
The other partners in the pilot program to reduce drunken driving are the city of Columbus -- represented by Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, Lt. Paul Weiner of the Division of Police Traffic Bureau, City Councilman Michael Stinziano and Health Commissioner Teresa Long -- as well as the ride-sharing operation Lyft, represented by Rachelle Celebrezze, a senior policy adviser.
"Public safety is our No. 1 priority in the city," Ginther said during his remarks.
Columbus Safe Rides will provide 2,000 free Lyft trips each weekend through Dec. 31 along with increased police patrols "during key drinking times," according to the announcement.
The cost for the average Lyft trip that will be covered by Columbus Safe Rides is $30, Zastrow said.
The enforcement efforts, Weiner said, will be in the corridor with the highest density of drunken-driving arrests: High Street from Clintonville south through downtown to German Village.
The ride-sharing part of the program, through which up to 32,000 free Lyft trips will be provided, involves a kind of lottery. Beginning at 5 p.m. Thursdays, Zastrow said, a "unique code" will be sent from the city's Facebook and Instagram accounts to people ages 21 and older who have signed up. It will offer them a shot at one of the 2,000 free Lyft rides through 5 a.m. Sundays.
"Drunk driving is 100 percent preventable," Zastrow said, adding that Anheuser-Busch officials hope the pilot project could be extended to other cities.
On average, 28 people die each day in drunken-driving accidents, Celebrezze said.
"We're hoping to really change behavior," she said. "We want everyone to be a designated rider."
In 2015, Weiner said, 4,282 OVI arrests were made in Columbus.
"Being a responsible driver is simple: If you are drinking, plan not to drive," Weiner said. "The bottom line is we want people to have fun and celebrate, but we need them to be safe."
"The goal is to reduce harmful drinking and its impact on our community," Long said. "We will be measuring our progress, and we will be sharing our insights with other communities."
Between 2010 and 2014, Long said, 31 percent of traffic fatalities in Franklin County involved alcohol.
"That's a lot," she said. "Frankly, we will be saving lives."