|Stay safe during Oregon Trail Days celebration|
|July 07, 2016 Jerry Purvis|
Frank Marquez/Gering Citizen Gering Citizen staff and friends volunteer as drivers for Safe Ride OTD. This is the fifth year the program will be working to get revellers home safely from downtown bars and clubs. Last year, drivers gave 177 rides.
Now five years old, Safe Ride OTD provides safe transportation home for people who might have over-celebrated a bit during Oregon Trail Days.
Gering Citizen Publisher Lisa Betz-Marquez said she started the program in 2012 after a Facebook discussion on Oregon Trail Days turned to the dangers of drunk driving.
“Some of the folks were concerned about all the drinking that goes on,” she said. “They wished a service was available to get people home safely. I felt compelled to do something about it.”
The first year started small, with 16 volunteer drivers donating their vehicles, time and gas to provide about 175 rides. It’s grown ever since.
“Most of the people who request rides have only had a few drinks, but want to get home safely,” Betz-Marquez said. “That’s why we do this.”
Volunteer drivers, using their own vehicles and gas, provide the service. Although it’s a free service, those requesting rides often offer to help pay for the driver’s expenses. Drivers will be seen in the community the nights of July 8 and 9 wearing lime green T-shirts for those who need a ride. Magnetic signs will also be on drivers’ vehicles so law enforcement will know who they are.
“I’ve received many comments from law enforcement, from the State Patrol to local police departments who appreciate our service in helping make the roads safer,” Betz-Marquez said. “People from other areas who are back to celebrate Oregon Trail Days just can’t believe we do this for free. It leaves an impression that Gering is a progressive, generous, and caring community. That’s a good impression to leave with visitors.”
Heading up the program this year is Kevin Fordyce, who has been a driver in past years. Headquartered at the Gering Citizen offices, Safe Ride dispatches rides to people who call to request transportation.
“I starting driving for Safe Ride two years ago and really enjoyed it,” Fordyce said. “With Lisa involved in theater work this summer, I volunteered to head up the program this year.”
He said they’re still seeking drivers for Safe Ride and dispatchers to take calls at the Citizen offices.
First Student, which provides transportation for school children, is joining Safe Ride OTD for the first time this year.
“We’re all about safety at First Student,” said location manager Patricia Dooley. “It’s an honor to be a part of Safe Ride in offering transportation for people to get home safely.”
Dooley said she will be driving one of the First Student school buses the night of Safe Ride. “We’ll be parked at the Gering Civic Center from about 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.,” she said. “People can come there for a ride home. We’re used to transporting students to and from school, so this is nothing new.”
Dooley said Safe Ride OTD was a phenomenal program in which to get involved. “We want to give back to the community. People who want to celebrate during Oregon Trail Days won’t have to worry about getting home safely.”
One of First Student’s mottos is “If you can’t do it safely, don’t do it.” For those who want to celebrate, they’ll take care of the transportation.
Rides will be offered July 8 and 9 from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. If you might need the service, please call 308-633-6397 or come to the Gering Citizen offices at 1447 10th Street, across from the Gering Bakery. We want everyone to have a fun-filled and safe weekend as we celebrate the 95th annual tradition of Oregon Trail Days.