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Safe rides offered during Oregon Trail Days
June 13, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
People who might celebrate a bit too much during the upcoming Oregon Trail Days can still get home safely with the SAFE Ride OTD project.

The service was organized in 2012 by Gering Citizen Publisher Lisa Betz and offered during last July’s Oregon Trail Days celebration. The intent was not to encourage people to drink too much, but to provide safe transportation so they don’t become drunk drivers.

“We’re expanding SAFE Ride OTD this year,” said Janica Mehling, this year’s coordinator. “We’ll also be offering rides the week before on July 6 after the concert at Five Rocks.”

Another change is the times that safe rides are offered. Last year, volunteer drivers learned that calls didn’t start coming in until about 10 p.m. So the service will be offered on July 6 and July 11 – 13 starting at 10 p.m. and going until about 1:30 – 2 p.m., after the bars have closed.

Last year, Mehling and her husband stood outside the Union Bar in Gering handing out fliers or asking people if they needed a ride. During the Oregon Trail Days celebration in 2012, the couple provided rides to 13 people on Friday and another 20 on Saturday.

Overall for the weekend, rides were provided for about 100 people on Friday and about 75 on Saturday.

“My hope is that everyone can have fun and not have to worry about having a designated driver from their group,” said Mehling. “That way, everyone can have fun together. We just don’t want anyone being arrested for DUI or worse, getting into an accident that injures others.”

The Gering and Scottsbluff Police Departments, the Scotts Bluff County Sheriff and Nebraska State Patrol all increase their special enforcement efforts during the celebration. There were eight DUI arrests recorded last year.

Mehling said all the designated drivers are volunteers who use their vehicles, gas and time to provide safe rides home. If requested, volunteers can also bring the customer’s vehicle to their home at the same time.

SAFE Ride OTD volunteers will be headquartered at the Gering Citizen offices in downtown Gering. Volunteers will also be circulating in the community to hand out fliers. The group is also working on getting T-shirts and magnetized car signs so volunteers can be easily recognized.

The group is still recruiting volunteers to provide safe rides during the upcoming celebration. Call Mehling at (308) 641-0070. The night of the events, people can request a safe ride by calling the Gering Citizen offices at (308) 633-6397.
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