Now-sober River Falls man offers free rides to keep drunk drivers off the road


A Wisconsin man who has eight DWIs on his record is doing his part to keep drunk drivers off the road – and he's doing it all for free.

"I was an awful person. I only thought of myself," Joel Sweeney told Forum News Service. "This is my way of saying I'm sorry. Sorry to my community. Sorry to the city."

Sweeney, who goes by the name Durango Joe, spent three years behind bars following his eighth DWI conviction. He estimates he has spent about $365,000 over years of drinking and getting arrested.

Now seven years sober (the River Falls Journal reported on his journey to sobriety back in 2012), he has decided to give back to others to help them avoid making the same mistakes he has made.

In 2013, he started Durango Joe's, a free-will sober cab for people who have been drinking, his GoFundMe page says. And since then, he has expanded his free cab service to anyone who needs a ride – even partnering with the Pierce County work release program, the page notes.

"When I was drinking, I didn't care about how dangerous my behavior was," Sweeney told Forum News Service. "Now, with Durango Joe, I know I am saving people by this service. It makes me proud that I could be saving someone's life."

He's never charged for a ride – and he's not looking to make a profit. He's only collected donations and tips from customers.

Now he owns four Dodge Durangos, hiring additional drivers to help when he gets too busy, Forum News Service says.

But he's looking to expand his business further and needs more drivers, as well as funds to pay for vehicle maintenance, insurance and other overhead costs, the GoFundMe page says. He's also raising funds on the website Indiegogo.

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