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Safe rides from taverns

R&R Transport operates 24/7 in Waupaca

By Angie Landsverk

Roy Cierzan turned an observation into a business.

For years, he worked at area restaurants and taverns.

A number of his family and friends did so as well.

They noticed how many people they knew had received an OWI at some point in their lives and saw a need to get people home safely when they drank too much alcohol, particularly on the days of the week Waupaca Taxi does not operate until bar time.

Waupaca Taxi offers service in the city and also between Waupaca and King.

It operates until bar time on Friday and Saturday nights.

On April 1, 2015, Cierzan started R&R Transport in the Waupaca area with a partner.

The partner remained part of the business for a short time.

“When I started the program, it was to cover the hours the taxi didn’t, so people could get home safely after bar time,” he said during a recent meeting of the Waupaca Common Council.

However, soon he received requests to drive people to weddings, birthday celebrations, golf outings and even to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

Today, R&R Transport offers its service 24 hours a day throughout the area and now has a taxicab vehicle license in the city.

“I’ve been working with Roy a couple months now to bring it forward,” City Administrator Henry Veleker told the council.

He said R&R Transport fills a niche because it operates after bar time.

In addition, the business offers rides outside the city, including in the Weyauwega area.

Cierzan said the mileage increases rapidly on his vehicles.

“I bought a van 2 1/2 months ago and put on 25,000 miles,” he said. “I put on 2,000 to 3,000 miles per week in the summer.”

Last August, Cierzan’s sister, Julie Stephens, also became an R&R Transport driver.

“It takes a special type of person to handle all the challenges of taking people home when they are intoxicated. But it is rewarding to get them home safely,” she said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, people are glad to have the service.”

Stephens said a point of pride for them is the number of people who continue to use R&R Transport following their first ride.

Cierzan is now working toward hiring additional drivers, who all go through background checks as part of the hiring process.

Shortly after Stephens began working with her brother, she started looking for outside funding to help support a safe ride program, in partnership with R&R Transport.

The Tavern League of Wisconsin provides funds for safe rides home from bars.

Stephens is starting a nonprofit called the Wisconsin Initiative for Sobriety Education, or WISE, to reduce and eliminate drunk and drugged driving in Waupaca and beyond.

Her idea is to offer a comprehensive safe ride program, which includes rides to and from home.

R&R Transport is the main provider for the WISE Safe Ride Program.

Since R&R Transport is a taxi service which travels to rural destinations as needed, those in need of immediate transportation may contact its 24-hour ride line at 715-281-4169, Stephens said.

She said those interested in reserving or contracting services ahead of time may call her at 715-281-6044.

WISE seeks to work on three levels in its proactive approach, she said.

Stephens said the three levels include:

• Educating children about responsible drinking practices while also providing free safe rides/safe harbors for them.

• Providing safe rides for the elderly, weddings and other special occasions through a paid reserved service.

• Assisting with transportation for those battling addiction issues and needing rides to treatment centers, with insurance-based reimbursement.

Stephens said those interested in assisting with the WISE efforts may also call her at 715-281-6044.

WISE is looking for volunteers to be on call when there is a need for safe harbor rides, Stepehens said.

She also wants to talk to Waupaca High School’s Students Against Destructive Decisions group, as well as middle school students, to start conversations with that generation about alcohol and drugs.

“If there are questions about the program, we are on the ground level,” she said. “We are open for discussion. Bring it up so we can address it and try to address the concerns.”

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