The nightly commute: Safe Ride a service for students

A student climbs into Safe Ride as a free and safe way back to campus.
Matt Levins/Castleton Spartan

It’s a Saturday night and there are parties all over Lake Bomoseen. Taylor Rock, who’s at one of them, realizes it’s almost 2 a.m. He makes the decision to call Safe Ride so that he can go back to Wheeler to sleep in his bed.   
Five minutes go by and Safe Ride appears outside of the party.  Rock and a mob of drunken students pour into the van. As they begin to drive, the student two seats over from Rock apologizes. Confused at first, Rock looks at the kid as he throws up all over the back of the van.
But it didn’t cost him anything for the mess.
Contrary to popular belief among the students, there isn’t a $75 fine for throwing up in Safe Ride.    
Safe Ride is in its 18th year of getting students home safely and is co-coordinated by Colleen Kunz and Caitlin Ryan, two cross country runners. The two talked recently about ongoing issues involving the service including Safe Ride being followed by police.   
“A lot of people have been moving their mouths about Safe Ride dropping people off at parties and that’s the main thing we focus on them not doing,” Kunz said.  
And she believes that is why Castleton Police have been following Safe Ride – to find out where the parties are being held.
 “I called the director of Public Safety and right away he called the Castleton P.D. and they cleared everything and no one was followed that next night,” Ryan said, adding that it has been frustrating to hear of police targeting Safe Ride.   
This year, Safe Ride has had no problem with finding drivers for the weekends like they had in the past, according to Kunz.  Most of last year’s drivers graduated, but Kunz said there have been plenty of replacements. That’s not to say that help isn’t needed, she added.  
“We could always use more drivers,” Kunz said.
And to make it more fun this year, the two coordinators have started a “Cash Cab” concept, based on an old show where people are picked up in a taxi and asked questions for cash prizes. The prize for the Safe Ride version isn’t cash, but points to Fireside.  
They’ve gotten many tweets from students about how great it’s been going, they said.  Safe Ride coordinators are in the process of setting up a Twitter account and are beginning to use Facebook better to create more awareness about the program.   
“It’s not just a drunk bus. If you’re walking and you don’t feel safe, if you’re cold, or if you don’t want a diversion, give us a call,” Ryan said.   
They said they want the students to know that Safe Ride is there for really any situation.  
“It makes us feel like we’re doing something for campus,” Ryan said.   
But Kunz and Ryan said they feel students and administrators don’t appreciate Safe Ride as much as they should.
 “We wish the deans would acknowledge us more because we’re doing our best to keep students safe.  The cops are busting parties around 9 or 10, and that’s when Safe Ride is beginning. The students just wander the streets looking for parties,” Ryan said.  
An occasional driver for Safe Ride, Charlie Wilson, shared his feelings about his experience from one Thursday night.  
“It was kind of boring waiting for someone to call, but when they did, they pissed me off.  It was mostly, because they didn’t really know where they were going,” Wilson said.  “Most of them were too drunk to know where they live.”
Vincent Guerrera, a sophomore, believes that Safe Ride benefits the students and the town.  
Sophomore Chris Terry quickly interrupted with “Safe Ride is clutch as hell.”

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