Update, Monday, 4:41 p.m.:
Safe Rides, a program which which allows teenagers in town to get a ride home if they've been drinking and would be unsafe behind the wheel, was set to close last week, but after word got out, the program is back, volunteer Gary Weicker says:
"We have had an outpouring of volunteers stepping forward to keep it going. This is a great organization and provides a safe way for our high school kids to get home on weekend nights."
Original article, March 14: "Darien Safe Rides to End Without Parent Support—Can You Help?"
Darien Safe Rides to Shut Down on April 30 after 30 Years Due to Lack of Parent Support
Sadly, Darien Safe Rides will shut down at the end of April due to the lack of parent support. The Darien Safe Rides program, the first in the nation, was founded in 1982 after several teenage fatalities involving alcohol-related accidents.
The program has been copied throughout the the state of Connecticut and the nation. It has helped save teenage lives and has provided a leadership experience for those students participating in the program.
Can the program be saved? Only if a team of three or more parents steps up to be the Parent Advisors for next year.
Traditionally, the Parent Advisors have, or expect to have, a child involved in the program. The Parent Advisors work with the ten or so Student Officers that run the program as well as lead student teams comprised of juniors and seniors.
The Parent Advisors lead a monthly meeting with Student Officers that covers scheduling, compliance with Safe Rides rules, and other issues that come up. Another separate team of parents coordinates the scheduling of parents on duty at the Depot when Safe Rides operates.
At the beginning of the school year, the Parent Advisors conduct an informational meeting for parents and students, and coordinate the receipt of documentation such as licenses, insurance and parent approvals.
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Darien Safe Rides, a youth-directed program that is sponsored by the Town of Darien’s Youth Commission. Darien Safe Rides is a program designed to provide a free and confidential ride home to any student who is not in a condition to drive safely or to any student who wants to avoid being a passenger in such a situation.
Darien Safe Rides is also a program which holds the potential for changing attitudes about driving while drinking; the student's concern for each other's safety leads to greater appreciation of both the risks and responsibilities associated with driving while impaired. Darien Safe Rides operates out of the Depot Teen Center.
Darien Safe Rides was founded in 1982 by several Darien High School students after they witnessed a number of alcohol-related car accidents amongst their friends. Its stated purpose is to provide safe, reliable and confidential transportation for High School students from 10 p.m.. to 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights during the school year.
It is organized and operated primarily by the students, with adult supervision, and currently has approximately 100 student volunteers fielding approximately 5-15 calls per night. It is a testament to their success that there have been no alcohol-related deaths from car accidents among Darien High School students since the program’s inception.
Students and at least one adult volunteer gather at the Depot as the team responsible for giving Darien's high school students a safe ride home. One student is the dispatcher, handling all incoming telephone calls as well as maintaining contact with the Darien Safe Rides cars on call.
Students are sent out in pairs. Drivers use his/her family car and are accompanied by a rider. The responsibility of the rider is assisting the driver in finding the location address, assessing the situation of the pick up, and handling the phone contact with the dispatcher.
Adult volunteers are on duty for the students to consult if they need help. The parents of participating students are required to spend one evening a semester (twice a year) at the Depot on a Friday or Saturday night as a Parent Volunteer to provide guidance in the event of an emergency or logistical problem.
Safe Rides depends on the commitment of its members and the attitude toward it by other students. Although parents are involved, the program's basic premise is that responsible young people can have a positive and meaningful impact on the problem of alcohol and other drug abuse, particularly as it relates to the inevitable risks of driving while under the influence.
Editor's note: This article originally was published Thursday. The timestamp has been changed for layout purposes on the Home page of Darien Patch.