Safe Ride Program offers a choice to people out on Thanksgiving Eve

BRUNSWICK, N.Y.—While many may assume New Year's Eve is the biggest night of the year to go out, Thanksgiving Eve is just as popular.

Bars and restaurants are packed with people throughout the Capital Region kicking off the holiday season with a few drinks.

But for Mark Balistreri, what happens after the drinks are poured is the most important.

“Until it happens to somebody, they really don't realize how much of a wrong choice at a wrong time can change lives,” says Balistreri. His wife, Annette was killed in 2005 by a drunk driver.

“My wife was 40 years old, they took however many remaining years we had together, they took a special person who cared about people,” he says.

Because of Annette's great care for people, Balistreri began his “Safe Ride Program” seven years ago, designed to provide a free ride home to anyone who needs it, no questions asked.

Balistreri originally partnered with one bar and now partners with 22, one of them, Brown's Brewing Company in Troy.

“We want to promote awareness and let everyone know what happened to Annette,” says manager Carrie Harkin. “It gives people options and they know there's another way to get home.”

But safe rides are not just limited to Rensselaer County.

Local law firm Martin, Harding & Mazzotti is also offering free rides home, and their program knows no boundaries, applying to any bar throughout the Capital Region.

“These type of situations are the real tragedies, and if we can eliminate drunk driving accidents in total, I'm sure everyone would be glad to have a little less business if there were no more drunk drivers on the road,” says attorney Todd Sardella.

Whatever safe ride option drivers choose, Balistreri says his wife's tragic story is a reminder to take a step back and think

“The purpose of our program is to give people another choice,” he says.

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