What is a safe rides program?
To prevent students from driving under the influence of alcohol, many institutions have implemented safe rides programs. Safe rides programs provide students with a safe and sober way to get home from events where students may have been consuming alcohol. Rides are offered to anyone who may feel uncomfortable getting home on his or her own, whether or not the student has been drinking.
When planning for a safe rides program, Frostburg State University administers followed a ten-step approach:
- Assessed key campus variables
- Determined how the program would be operated
- Selected vehicles
- Determined source of vehicle insurance
- Hired staff
- Promoted safe rides program to students
- Promoted safe rides program to administrators
- Built partnerships and increased awareness of program
- Acknowledged and planned for anticipated problems
- Created program proposal
Safe rides are usually offered on weekend nights through the early hours of the morning. For example, Texas A&M’s program CARPOOL offers free rides on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings from 10:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. (“CARPOOL,”2008). Typically the rides are free for students, and the driver of the van or bus may be a hired staff member or volunteer student. Texas A&M’s CARPOOL program is completely student-run and consists of 350 trained student volunteers (“CARPOOL,”2008).
Funding for a safe rides program varies across institutions. Many safe rides programs are funded through the student government, whereas others rely solely on donations, such as grants or private contributions. A safe rides budget may vary from $10,000 to $500,000 depending on an institution’s size and resources. The costs associated with a program may consist of vehicle purchase and maintenance, staffing, insurance, and gas.
Providing safe rides to students is a strategy that takes a harm-reduction approach to prevention. As such, it is difficult to measure the impact of the program. However, many institutions monitor the usage of their safe rides programs to assess whether the program is being adequately utilized. For example, the University of Arizona surveyed students and found that 21% of students used the safe rides program in 2006 (“Creating a Safe Campus Culture”, 2010).
Institutions may also monitor reports of violations, such as DUIs or DWIs, in order to assess whether the program is preventing students from driving after drinking. For example, Texas A&M University looked at their rates of DUIs and DWIs and found dramatic decreases over a six-year period of program implementation (J. Burns, personal communication, May 24, 2009).
Issues and considerations
There is a great deal of planning that must go into organizing a safe rides program. Budgeting for safe rides can be challenging, yet employing student government to run the program may be a cost-efficient approach to program implementation. Typically students are very supportive of a safe rides program and may be willing and eager to take it on themselves. And using student fees to fund the program and student volunteers to operate safe rides may provide cost-savings for an institution.
When budgeting for safe rides, adequate funding must be allocated for the purchase of vehicles, insurance, staff training, and gas. A safe rides program must also have sufficient resources for advertising the program to students and parents.
Finally, it is essential that colleges and universities evaluate their safe rides program. It is recommended that institutions track usage of the program. They may also monitor judicial reports of DUIs, DWIs or other alcohol-related incidents. Surveying students on their attitudes towards drinking and driving or their recent use of a designated driver may also provide insights into the program’s efficacy.
CARPOOL: Caring Aggies R Protecting Over Our Lives (2008). Retrieved July 7, 2009 from http://carpool.tamu.edu/
Creating a Safe Campus Culture (2010). Retrieved October 28, 2014 from http://assessment.arizona.edu/sites/default/files/Safety%20Survey%202009%20(2).pdf