Due to budget cuts and a lack of volunteers, the Silicon Valley chapter of Safe Ride, a drunk driving prevention program sponsored by the Red Cross, shut down on Sept. 5. Previously, the program ran on Friday and Saturday nights from 10:00 p.m. until 1:30 a.m., giving intoxicated teenagers rides home, in order to keep drunk drivers off the streets.
Students from Paly and Henry M. Gunn High School founded Safe Ride in 1984 after a Palo Alto student was killed in an accident involving a drunken driver.
The program soon expanded to communities all over the Bay Area, reaching 11 cities and nine schools, including Paly, Castilleja High School and Henry M. Gunn High School.
Safe Ride was run by high school students and adults who volunteered to give rides to students with no questions asked.
Volunteers answered phone calls from people in need of rides, drove to their location and brought them back to their homes.
One of the main reasons Safe Ride shut down was due to the fact that it was not receiving enough volunteers. Safe Ride was not able to run smoothly because of the lack of people behind the operations. Without sufficient volunteers the program also began to lose reliability.
“If Safe Ride weekends have had a lot of cancellations, students don’t value it and can’t rely on it,” Becky Beacom, manager of health education at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) and former Safe Ride volunteer said.
Safe Ride created an informative way for kids to learn about drunk driving and the consequences that may come with it.
The program taught people not to drive drunk, even if they did not use the program.
“The mere presence of Safe Ride, even the idea of it, or the presence of the Safe Ride club on a school campus sends a powerful message to students that their peers want them to avoid drinking and driving,” Beacom said. “Caring adults and organizations will physically support and work with youth to help them make the safer decision.”
Paly students believe that the program really helped the Palo Alto community by giving people a safe alternative mode of transportation if they did happen to drink.
“Safe Ride definitely worked by saving people from having a terrible night,” junior Frankie Comey said. “[Safe Ride shutting down] won’t necessarily cause more accidents but there just isn’t that option of using Safe Ride anymore.”
Although Safe Ride recently shut down, Barb Larkin, CEO of the Red Cross Silicon Valley Chapter, told the Palo Alto Weekly that the Red Cross is trying to run the program through a different organization.
“If Safe Ride returns in its traditional format, it needs a strong adult director who students enjoy, and who has the time and resources to administer the many details of [Safe Ride],” Beacom said.
Students have expressed that they want the program to come back because it will keep Palo Alto safer and give them an opportunity to get home safely
“I think we should [bring back Safe Ride] because it was a good option to have and it kept our roads safer,” junior Andrew Liang said.