Since last July, San Miguel County’s Safe Ride program has taken 784 people home from bars and parties.
The program is paid for through a state fund coming from fees assessed to DWI offenders, so to most taxpayers, it’s free.
The county started the program to provide rides home for intoxicated people, so they could stay off the road. The service is available Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
This week, Wendy Armijo, the county’s DWI prevention coordinator, presented statistics to the County Commission showing that around two-thirds of Safe Ride passengers were men. The average cost was $13.80 per ride.
Patrick Snedeker, warden of the county jail, said it was in the county’s interest to continue the program.
“Anyone who uses the service is someone I don’t deal with at the detention center. That helps law enforcement,” he said. “It’s a very worthwhile program.”
Armijo asked the commission to approve a grant application that, in part, would pay for the Safe Ride program. But commissioners said they wanted statistics indicating whether the program had made a dent in the DWI problem.
Armijo said such information could be made available but that the Safe Ride program was just one component in helping combat drunken driving, noting that every part of the judicial system plays a role.
Commission Chairman David Salazar suggested that it’s possible that people who would get a designated driver anyway are the ones using Safe Ride and that drunken drivers aren’t taking advantage of it.
Armijo said only about 5 percent of a bar’s patrons use Safe Ride but that it is still taking intoxicated people off the road.
“It’s hard to put a value on life,” she said. “One hundred percent of the people using Safe Ride are intoxicated.”
Commissioner Nicolas Leger said he would like to see DWI statistics, so he would have something to counter critics of the Safe Ride program.
The commission unanimously approved applying for money for the Safe Ride program.