UISG: SafeRide had slow but promising start


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Though SafeRide has gotten off to a slow start, officials insist the numbers show progress for the program.

Between the end of August and mid-October, 31 students were reported to have used the service. 

Officials of the Partnership for Alcohol Safety are pleased with the programs intentions and hope to see a continued improvement.

The University of Iowa Student Government launched SafeRide, a program to provide a safe ride to students in need, at the beginning of this semester. The UISG budgeted $40,000 to the program for this year.

“Thirty-one rides we think is a very good start,” UISG Vice President Jessie Tobin said during the Partnership for Alcohol Safety meeting on Wednesday.

The program is open to all UI students seven days a week, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. The groups of students who have used it so far were asked to report why they used SafeRide.

A majority of students used SafeRide because of fear or a lack of a ride home — only 10 percent self-reported alcohol as a reason. However, Tobin suspects not all who are intoxicated wanted to admit to it.

“I can imagine that quite a few of those [lacking a ride] are because they are intoxicated,” she said.

Another trend found in the data dealt with age groups. more than half of the riders were freshman, while sophomores and juniors made up the next a significant portion of the remaining riders, with a few seniors.

“A clear majority of our SafeRide students are undergraduate students,” Jeralyn Westercamp, the UISG safety initiatives liaison, said.

Westercamp said the numbers are just the beginning.

“One thing to keep in mind with all this data is this is a brand-new program and this only includes rides from August to the middle of October,” she said. “I am really looking forward to seeing more trends as the data develop.”

The members of Partnership for Alcohol Safety also hope to see some more development.

Patrick Grim, a member of the group and an undergraduate director of Student Legal Services, believes SafeRide is a good program and hopes it will expand. 

“I don’t think a lot of people necessarily know about it,” he said.  

Tobin said there is a marketing plan that will be growing, which includes working with sororities and residence halls.

Another effort the UISG will add is the ability to track where students are being picked up.

“Some of [the cabs] might record it, and some of them don’t,” Tobin said. “It is a kink we are working on.”

Many Partnership officials worried about the restricted number of rides.

“I was just thinking that if someone had had it once, and then for some reason had a medical emergency or something happened, and they said no, it would be kind of weird,” said Leah Cohen, owner of Bo-James.

The UISG only pays for the ride once a semester per student — after that, the student must pay the fare or find another way home.

“We do that because this isn’t just a free service for someone to get home from the bars — it is for emergency unexpected situations,” Tobin said. “The reason we chose the one ride per semester is because [unlimited rides] bankrupted other student governments.”

However, UISG would like to be able to expand the number of rides it can offer — if it becomes feasible.

“It would absolutely be our ideal,” Tobin said. “Our fear is that we would do that and end up spending some obscene amount of money we wouldn’t be able to pay for.”

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