This is what the University of Texas Parking and Transportation Services and UT student government are doing. This semester was the start of a trial period for a program called Safe Ride. The program is designed to get university students home from the downtown entertainment district after midnight. The rides are free of charge and sponsored by the student government.
The pickup location is at the intersection of San Jacinto and Eighth Street, just two blocks from the infamous Sixth Street. Riders are dropped off at their homes, apartments, condos or dorms. During the trial period, the rides are provided to East Riverside and West Campus residential areas between 11:59 p.m. and 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Waco does not have the large entertainment district that Austin does, so there has not been a need for a program like Safe Ride. Austin Avenue does not experience masses of people roaming up and down the street each weekend, though on certain holidays, Waco Transit organizes a similar system. Since 2006, Waco Transit has been offering free rides on New Year’s Eve.
However, if Waco did have a large entertainment district, would it be right for Baylor to support such a program? At first glance, the program seems to support students drinking.
However, the program is really an attempt to keep them safe. It is far better to keep students off the road than to risk having them drive drunk because such a program isn’t offered.
The program does not provide rides to the entertainment district, so it does not give students access to an area where alcohol is served. Instead, it simply gives students a safe way to get home.
Ultimately, with UT being in close proximity to Sixth Street, it is a given that some students will visit some of the local establishments, including places where alcohol is sold. Student drinking is inevitable, so providing a safe way home is a good way to combat drunk driving.
The university is not accepting the problem of drinking; it is protecting those who make the choice to drink from potentially hurting themselves or other people.
The possibility of preventing a drunk driver from killing other drivers makes this program worth the time and money.
According to the Department of Transportation, last year in Texas, 81 drivers under the age of 21 died from driving while intoxicated, and 205 drivers between the ages of 21 and 25 died driving under the influence of alcohol.
Almost 30 percent of drivers statewide that died from driving drunk were below 25 years old. Programs like Safe Ride can help lower the grim statistics.
While the program is designed to keep students safe, the university should also take another form of protection into account: education. If UT can afford to provide rides to residential areas in two different zip codes, it should be able to afford a program to educate students on the dangers of alcohol.
Perhaps raising awareness of the harm that comes from abusing alcohol could ultimately cut down on the number of people to go to Sixth Street.
Even if one student decided not to drive drunk or get drunk at all, the education program would be worth it.