Everyone knows what the Safe Ride van looks like when it rolls up to the bar or the party on the weekends, but few people probably realize that this is the 10th year it has been rolling. And as the college grows, Safe Ride organizers say so does the need for volunteers to staff it.
Joe Zeitler, a junior and Community Advisor at Castleton, has been working with Safe Ride for roughly three years, trying to ensure that that those who are out partying have a way to safely get home.
Zeitler said he wants to offer as much help as he can to keep Safe Ride running.
“I’d hate to see something bad happen to my friends,” Zeitler said.
Zeitler spoke about how being involved in Safe Ride does not just involve driving the vehicles. Volunteers are needed to help answer phone calls from those who need a ride or just to ride along in the van with the driver on pick-up runs.
“CA’s are trying their best to promote information about safe ride to new students,” he said.
But more needs to be done on campus to raise awareness of the program, Zeitler said. Many people already take advantage of it, he said, and the small group of people that keep it going works hard to improve it as much as possible.
Deb Choma, director of the Wellness Center, started Safe Ride here at Castleton, which she said has influenced many other schools to adopt similar programs. She said the biggest problem with keeping it going, however, is definitely finding drivers, which they are desperate for.
Recently the school changed insurance carriers which led to a new requirement that all Safe Ride drivers be 21 or older. The insurance change is a big culprit causing the lack of drivers, Choma said, saying there was seldom a staffing problem when 18 year-olds could drive.
“I am very disappointed in the upper class because they are of age, and they are the ones who use it,” said Choma, of the lack of volunteers.
In 10 years of operation, Choma said there has never been a complaint about the program or an accident with the van.
And the birth of the program was rooted in tragedy – and an effort to avoid another one.
“It’s my baby,” Deb said proudly. “It was started in memory of my nephew who was killed by a drunk driver.”
Choma and other Safe Ride volunteers urge students who use the service to take a turn volunteering. To do so, contact Choma at extension 1313.