SGI minister Joe Hargrave speaks about the importance of free transit in the city on New Year’s Eve. Photo by Travis Radke.

Public figures from Prince Albert are hoping free transit on New Year’s Eve and Day will help curb drunk driving in the city.

The free rides are part of the “Ding in the New Year” campaign, which will provide free bus rides in the city from 7:15 p.m. on December 31 until 3:00 a.m. the next day.

The campaign has been run since 1989 and is paid for by SGI. Despite the program being run for 28 years, this will be the first time that buses that can accommodate riders with special needs.

At a press event in city hall, SGI minister and Prince Albert MLA Joe Hargrave said the program usually sees 400 riders and that he hopes that number increases this year.

“We gotta keep funding it (the Ding in the New Year campaign), we gotta keep the awareness against drinking and driving out there… We gotta bring down the numbers, that is the most important thing,” said Hargrave. “The city bills SGI for it (the program) the exact cost, I don’t know. Because we cover the cost of the buses and the overtime and whatever the cost is and we consider it minimal for the potential impact.”

Prince Albert Chief of Police Troy Cooper noted that there had already been 153 impaired drivers charged in the city this year, seven of which were impaired by drugs. Police will also be rolling out checkstops over the holiday season to combat impaired driving.