UConn, USG offering more Sober Ride services to students

Members of the currently inactive GUARD Dogs sober rides service planning their route during a meeting last year. (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

There are many options when it comes to getting a lift home after a night of drinking, but more and more students are getting in on the growing sober ride business.

UConn Transportation Services offers Safe Rides (previously “Husky Watch”), which are a free source of on-demand transportation run in connection with the UConn Police Department. The vans service all students, staff and faculty that don’t feel safe traveling to their destination alone for any reason.

The service runs from 12 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Wednesday, 12 a.m. to 3 a.m. on Thursday, 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Friday, 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Saturday and 12 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Sunday, according to UConn Transportation Services’ website.

Safe Rides can only bring passengers to approved locations; and while there are over 15 listed, the locations are all within a one-mile radius of the Storrs campus. Thus, the vans cannot take passengers to any destination off campus.

USG has also recently sent out legislation in regard to bringing back the Giving UConn a Responsible Driver (GUARD Dogs) ride program. The transportation service – which has been inactive since spring 2014 – is a student-run, non-judgmental service that runs specifically for intoxicated students who are in need of a ride to a destination on or off campus.

The Ad-Hoc GUARD Dogs Restructuring Committee has been working with Student Activities in an effort to rewrite the policies and procedures of the GUARD Dogs program. Student concern has been taken into account for the changing of these policies, according to USG’s legislation.

“The Undergraduate Student Government approves of the policies and procedures outlined in the new GUARD Dogs Strategic Planning Document and Constitution,” the legislation, written by Eliza Conrad, said.

Legislation for GUARD Dogs was vastly approved at the USG meeting on Wednesday, with the intention of bringing the rides program back in the fall 2015 semester.

Some students are excited about the GUARD Dogs comeback.

“Finally. Although the existence of Safe Rides is helpful, UConn students need more options,” Destiny Fidalgo-George, an eighth-semester psychology major, said. “Also the availability, scheduling and terms that come with Safe Rides left me stranded on numerous occasions.”

In addition, UConn students with cars of their own are also taking advantage of the need for sober transportation. Many students post their phone numbers on the UConn Buy and Sell Tickets Facebook page for students who need sober rides, usually aiming to make a little money off of it.

Aaron Barkstrom, a fourth-semester marketing major, is trying to make a part-time business out of sober driving. He said he even has art major friends who are currently developing a logo for his business.

“I decided to do this because I am running a painting business in Danbury, and gas and food on the road are two big (monetary) burdens,” Barkstrom said.

In terms of trustworthiness, Barkstrom said he prides himself on being a good driver because he’s from New York, and he is licensed and insured.

Barkstrom charges $2 per head, though he said he gives discounts to loyal customers who refer others to his services. He usually offers rides from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday. He said he typically makes anywhere from $12 to $20 per night.

In response to why someone would chose his services over a Safe Ride, Barkstrom said, “It’s all about the experience. I can make friends with almost anyone and I’m a great listener, plus I’m always on time. Punctuality is a rare quality in most sober rides services.”

Nick Burnadze, a 6th-semester PNB major, is also a prominent contributor on the Buy and Sell page. He said students trust him for rides because he’s given them so many times.

“(I decided to do this) as soon as I got my car, which was junior year,” Burnadze said.

Burnadze also charges $2 per head, but only when he has a full car. He said if his car is relatively empty, he usually charges $3, and will charge $3 in any situation once gas prices get back up in the threes. He also said he often ends up giving some people free rides.

“I offer rides anytime, anywhere. However, if someone is texting me at 4 a.m. for a ride, it will cost much more. I usually drive on weekends,” Burnadze said.

Burnadze said he makes enough money so that “it is worth driving drunk people on Friday night.” In response to why someone would chose his services over a Safe Ride, he said, “Because UConn sober rides don’t offer complimentary chocolate.”

UConn Spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said that while UConn provides free sources of sober transportation, the university encourages students to consider all alternatives instead of driving while under the influence of alcohol.

“At the same time, we also encourage people to be careful in accepting rides from people they don’t know whose service is not regulated by a regulatory agency, like the State Department of Motor Vehicles,” Reitz said.

Molly Stadnicki is a staff writer for the news section.

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