Learn more about this student-run organization that offers free, safe transportation services, and the student leaders that make the program possible.
It’s 9 p.m. on Friday night in the Kernodle Center. This is usually the time when Safe Rides volunteers begin arriving and preparing for their shifts. Except this time, there are only five volunteers in the Kernodle Center.
Confused, Safe Rides captain Chris Edwards checks his email, and realizes what has happened. The group that was scheduled to volunteer for the night cancelled only a few hours before they were supposed to show up. Anxiety fills the air. It’s an hour before students start calling in, and Safe Rides is short seven volunteers.
Acknowledging the situation, the five volunteers in the room look at each other with determination before they reach for their phones and frantically begin recruiting back-up volunteers. They need a minimum of three additional volunteers in order for Safe Rides to run. By the end of the hour, they have gathered seven volunteers. The Safe Rides team has come together once again.
The clock hits 10 o’clock, and the calls start coming in. Safe Rides is back on for the night, and no one who calls in is aware that they almost lost a valuable resource.
When Elon students call Safe Rides, they understand that they’re calling for a free, safe transportation service run by student volunteers. They realize that Safe Rides is a student-run organization that provides rides as an alternative to drunk driving or walking alone, but they don’t always realize the passion of the student leaders that make the program possible.
Head Captain Noah Sakin believes the selfless nature of Safe Rides deserves more recognition. “I wish people knew about the hours and hours of work that volunteers pour into the program,” he said. “It would not be possible for us to run without students volunteering.”
After all, Safe Rides volunteers exist for a reason. There is a motivation to keep students safe by providing a resource that can save lives.
“The staff at Safe Rides is amazing,” Safe Rides Captain Chris Edwards said. “They are all nice, understanding and hardworking people who want to do nothing else but to have a positive impact on the Elon community.”
First year Bryanna Shazotte has only volunteered twice, yet she has already picked up on the central perspective that pushes Safe Rides—that students are going to go out on weekend nights, and the best thing to do to prevent tragedy is to provide a safe resource. “There are always students that go out and party,” she said. “Safe Rides helps people make better decisions.”
The program exists today because a group of students took the initiative to respond to a tragic incident in the community. In 1992, Elon football player Chad Macy was killed in an accident that was caused by driving under the influence. The impact of Macy’s death on the campus was a wake-up call. For many, it hit close to home and they wanted to create a program that could prevent accidents in the future.
“Since the death of Chad Macy there have been zero drunk driving fatalities on Elon’s campus of Elon students,” Sakin said. In Sepetember 2015 alone, Safe Rides transported 2,378 students. The success is astounding, and largely due to the constant improvements towards efficiency in the program.
A typical night at Safe Rides includes two or three dispatchers whose jobs are to answer phone calls and put students on a waiting list. The list is overlooked by the captain who assigns destinations and contact information to five different vehicles. Safe Rides vehicles stay within a mile radius of the campus, and contain a driver and a passenger at all times. The passenger’s job is to provide destinations and contact information to the driver who then picks up and drops off students before awaiting the next assignment.
In addition to continuing to improve efficiency, the program has continued to expand every year.
“We received two new vehicles with the assistance of [Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students] Smith Jackson last year,” Sakin said. “We are now able to accommodate parties of up to 10 people in one trip with these new vehicles. Also, we have developed a consistent volunteer group who frequently help us out when we are short on volunteers.”
However, in order to continue expanding with resources, the program must expand with volunteers. Safe Rides is always looking for volunteers and encourages all students to participate. Sophomore Avery Jamison believes that anyone can enjoy volunteering. “I’ve told people they should volunteer and the most common responses are about the hours,” he said. “It’s true. You are really tired afterwards, but being tired pales in comparison to how much you’re helping Elon students and the community in general.”
Other perks that come with Safe Rides are free pizza every night and the opportunity to skip the waiting line. For every three nights a student volunteers, they receive the opportunity to jump the first place in line by requesting a VIP ride.
“You meet very interesting people,” said Edwards. “You get free pizza and sodas, and you actually feel great knowing you got people safely to a destination without them resorting to drinking and driving. It is a good, easy way to get service hours and you have a lot of fun while doing it. Everyone should do Safe Rides at least once during their time at Elon. There is nothing truly like it.”
For more information about Safe Rides and how to get involved contact email@example.com.
-Article by Melina Casados