News

Possible future for Safe Ride program?

Red Cross to discontinue giving rides to intoxicated teens, but former volunteer offers to convene brainstorming meeting

A former volunteer has offered to convene a community meeting about the future of Safe Ride, a recently canceled program that provided rides home to intoxicated teenagers on Friday and Saturday nights.

Becky Beacom, manager of health education for the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and a former Safe Ride volunteer, said she would be willing to host a meeting of parties interested in brainstorming about other possible programs to address teen drinking and driving.

The Red Cross Silicon Valley, sponsor of the 27-year-old program, announced Aug. 17 it will discontinue Safe Ride Sept. 5 due to lack of funding and dwindling volunteer power.

The program was launched in 1984 after a 17-year-old Palo Alto student's death in a drunk-driving-related accident the previous year.

It used adult and student volunteers to field requests and provide free, confidential rides to teens who called in between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights during the school year. Teens could call in for any reason, including wanting to avoid getting into a car with someone who had been drinking.

But organizers said they had had trouble filling Safe Ride volunteer shifts in recent years. Last year the program provided about 200 rides, down from more than 600 in 2007-08.

"It remains our hope to transfer responsibility to another agency whose mission more closely aligns with Safe Ride," Barb Larkin, CEO of American Red Cross Silicon Valley Chapter, said in announcing closure of the program.

"We are proud to have partnered with teams from nine extraordinary high schools who worked tirelessly to support the Safe Ride program over the last 27 years."

Schools most recently participating in the program were Castilleja, Gunn, Los Altos High School, Menlo School, Summit Preparatory High School, Mountain View High School, Menlo-Atherton High School, Sacred Heart School and Woodside High School.

Larkin said the Red Cross decided to focus its limited resources on its core mission of disaster preparedness and response.

The Safe Ride program was initiated by students from Palo Alto and Gunn high schools after Scott Safreed, 17, was killed May 29, 1983, in an Embarcadero Road accident with a 16-year-old drunk driver.

Beacom said liability and staffing issues would make it difficult to replace Safe Ride as it was but added it is worth a community discussion.

"The Red Cross deserves a huge thank you for having taken this on for so many years," she said.

"I think there's still a lot of goodwill about trying to do something. It's good for teens to know that this exists, that there are alternatives.

"This is a leadership program for students, and it needs staffing, supervision and management."

Beacom said she can be contacted at beacomb@pamf.org.

Comments

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 26, 2012 at 8:38 am

Can you please clarify if Paly is or has been involved in this program. The article states that it was started by Paly and Gunn students but does not list Paly in the list of contributing schools.

I have never heard of this safe ride program except here in the PA Weekly. My Paly kids have never heard of it either.

Perhaps reaching out to Paly families as well as the other schools would help find a few more volunteers.


Posted by Gunn Parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 27, 2012 at 11:50 am

I had never heard of the program either, but had the same interest to save lives and offered the same to my children and their friends. Some parents thought I was wrong to do so, without a follow-up call to the parents of anyone I gave a ride to - so they could take whatever corrective action fit their family rules.
I was never asked to drive the same child twice - they actually learned from the experience and avoided future needs.
From my experience this is worthwhile - I did not condone drinking, nor did I help provide supplies or a place to drink, only a safe ride home. I made sure each child was safely in their house. I never had someone so drunk that I thought they could not be safely dropped off, but had that occurred I would have sought help.
For the curious, I drank some as a teen (so been there), but I do not drink now (so was not seen as someone trying to provide means, only save lives).
I really hope the safe ride practice continues!!


Posted by Sally Bemus, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 27, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Thank you Becky for alerting us to the loss of this important life saving service. Count me in to help find a way to continue this program for our teens.


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