Lafayette’s Tipsy Taxi program provides intoxicated individuals free and confidential cab rides home, but is “not meant to take the place of a designated driver,” said Amy Daigle of the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s not meant to encourage irresponsible behavior,” said Daigle, who oversees the program. “But if someone gets in a bind and they need it, it’s there.”

Tipsy Taxi has provided nearly 900 vouchers for cab rides at nearly 200 participating bars and restaurants since its implementation in May 2007. Individuals can request the service, or the staff can suggest it to patrons obviously beyond driving ability.

Unlike a typical cab ride, “it has to bring you to a hotel or residence” in Lafayette Parish, Daigle explained. “They can’t take you to the IHOP at 2 in the morning.”

Bar manager Kelli Stegman of Legends on Jefferson Street said she thinks the program is “a good idea,” although she noted some setbacks.

“Usually it’s after 2 a.m. when we call (the cab company), or after 1:30, and it takes a while for them to get here,” she said, noting the cab’s arrival time is typically no fewer than 45 minutes. “People get impatient. They’re drunk,” she added, and the individual sometimes leaves before the ride arrives, or is too impaired to relay information, like an address, easily.

But Stegman said she’s had positive experiences with the program, too.

“The last person I offered it to came back and thanked me,” she said.

Corey Dwyer, a sophomore moving image arts student, said he was aware of the Tipsy Taxi program the two times he was arrested for drunken driving, but never considered the option.

“I’ve had to wait an hour for a cab ride in Lafayette, and that’s using cash,” Dwyer said. “I couldn’t imagine calling Tipsy Taxi at 2 a.m. and them picking me up any quicker for free.”

Long waits are typical for those seeking taxi services in Lafayette, especially late at night, when no other alternative is available.

Lafayette’s bus system provides “Night-Owl” service, but it ends at 11 p.m. UL Lafayette’s student shuttle service — available only during the fall and spring semesters — shuts down at midnight.

For the fourth year in a row, Lafayette stacked the most D.U.I. arrests in Louisiana in 2012, and adults aged 18-23 comprised more than a third of that total, according to data obtained from the Lafayette Police Department.

Of the 865 individuals arrested in 2012 for driving under the influence, 274 of them were aged 18-23 — 198 male, 76 female.

The total number arrested is down 30.5 percent from 2011’s total of 1,129 D.U.I. arrests, which reflects an inexplicable 36.8 percent jump from 825 arrests in 2010.

“We just arrested more drunks (in 2011),” said Lafayette Police Department spokesman Cpl. Paul Mouton of the spike.