Designated Driver Program Launched - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

09/05/06 - Nacogdoches

Designated Driver Program Launched

by Donna McCollum

On Labor Day law enforcement tries to emphasize the importance of safe driving. The biggest reminder is always the danger of driving after having too much to drink. The same message is right now a year round effort at Stephen F Austin State University. Two women are leading an effort to get a program called Driving Jacks off the ground and running by spring.

President Stephanie Sullivan explained, "It's a designated driver program. We're going to pick up students from SFA, from bars, parties, all over the community and bring them home safe so they won't drive home or get killed by a drunk driver."

Like what happened two years ago to SFA student Amy Shields, the founder of Driving Jacks.   Vice president Krista Swooley recalled, "A few weeks following her starting the program she was actually killed by a drunk driver. Everyone sensed the need for it on campus, but it really hit home. From there the momentum has picked up." Driving Jacks now has non profit status something helpful in a $30,000 dollar fund drive. Corporate sponsors, Enterprise Rental will offer cars at half price. Nacogdoches Safe and Drug Free is promoting it. Local hot spots are supporting the effort. So is the Department of Public Safety. Greg Sanchez will teach volunteer drivers the safe way to help tipsy party goers and the signs of alcohol poisoning.

But the law's involvement stops there.   Sullivan said, "We don't want them to have to worry getting in trouble just because they use our service. It's going to be totally anonymous. They don't have to give any ID or anything."

Ultimately the program's mere existence may serve as the best deterrent to drinking too much.  Swolley added, "I think the more people realize that we have this program for a reason the more they'll start to consciously think about it before they go out and drink. Do I want to call Driving Jacks for the third time this week."

Organizers say students often go out as much as four times a week. This semester a similar program at Texas A & M will offer its 100 thousandth designated driver ride in five years. In San Antonio a designated driver service is offering rides home for its customers and their cars. Users pay annual fees. Driving Jacks will offer free rides for university students and the general public. The program will be launched this January if enough money is raised.

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