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Alyssa Lockwood noticed that traffic around the Madison and Yellowstone River accesses was busy during the summers with floaters parking at least two cars on the river: one at the start of a float and one at the end.

“Traffic has gotten really bad,” Lockwood said. “We really want to reduce the number of cars driving to and parking at river accesses.”

Lockwood, a fly fisher, has used shuttle services for long, overnight floats, but didn’t know of a service for shorter day floats. So she started Slow Drift Shuttle Service.

“I definitely knew there was a need for it for shorter, more local Bozeman floats,” she said. “I’ve been tubing and paddle-boarding and rafting most of my young life, and I never had a service available like this for anything other than those long overnight floats.”

Slow Drift Shuttle Service will pick up customer’s cars at river accesses on the Madison and Yellowstone rivers in the Bozeman area and drop the vehicle off at the access where that the customer is planning to exit the river. The company began this summer, shuttling its first vehicles on July 3, and operates Wednesday through Sunday.

The process of booking a shuttle is pretty straightforward. Customers can go to Slow Drift’s website, slow-drift.com, or call or email the company. A staff member will collect information about the vehicle — where it will be, where it should be dropped off and where they keys will be stashed. The company receives explicit permission from customers to drive their vehicles for insurance, Lockwood said, and sends a text with a photo of the vehicle once it’s parked. Most shuttles cost between $30 and $55, depending on the length of the float.

Lockwood and the Slow Drift team, all women and all fully insured, have several protocols in place to keep themselves and customers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s kind of a weird line to toe,” Lockwood said. “We don’t actually interact with customers, but we are sharing their space.”

Workers sanitize their hands before and after driving a customer’s vehicle and wear a face mask while inside. Only one staff member drives a customer’s car, and they keep the windows rolled down while driving to keep air circulating. Slow Drift also offers contactless payment, pickup and drop-off.

Lockwood said that one of the main drivers in starting Slow Drift was reducing traffic, but another was trying to keep floaters from driving after drinking on the river, something that has been a continuing issue as the rivers get more and more popular.

According to the Montana Department of Transportation, the state has one of the highest fatality rates in the nation for drunk driving deaths. The department reported that 64% of all fatal accidents were caused by impaired driving in 2018.

Slow Drift’s services make it so only one person in a group of floaters needs to stay sober to drive everyone back to town, potentially making the roads safer for all.

“You only need one (designated driver), so it’s less people who have been drinking and driving,” Lockwood said.

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at mloveridge@dailychronicle.com or at (406) 582-2651.

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