When the residents of Hays take revelry a little too far, Safe Ride is there to get them home safely and legally. The program, which started in June of 2005, has recently surpassed a total of 50,000 rides.
At 1:45 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 14, the 50,000th ride was given, and a total of 53,241 miles have been driven to provide those rides. The Safe Ride service was started by the Partnership for a Safer Community as part of an effort to provide alternative modes of transportation for individuals when they feel being on the roads is unsafe.
"It's a great collaborative effort between the university, local business and the city of Hays," said Ed Howell, director of University Police. "Fifty-thousand rides is definitely a milestone."
Safe Ride is a free service available to the entire community. The bus picks up and drops off riders anywhere within the city limits between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights.
"Given an opportunity to engage in safer behavior, people will generally take advantage of that opportunity," said Bob Duffy, coordinator of the Drug and Alcohol Awareness Network and co-founder of the service.
In addition to keeping the roads safe, it helps out the police officers of Hays by preventing accidents and arrests.
"Every time people make the responsible choice it's a positive," said Jim Braun, Hays police chief. "Whenever people chose that action it helps the officers and the community."
It isn't just for intoxicated college students; many riders use it to run errands or get a ride home from work instead of walking.
"It's not just a drunk taxi," said Duffy. "It provides a valuable service to the community."
And the community is definitely involved. More than 20 local businesses and agencies support the service, offering everything from discounted rates on advertising, monetary donations and free phone lines for riders to call.
"It keeps people who aren’t safe to drive off the street," said Todd Powell, Fort Hays State University general council. "It has become a fixture in the community that people are accustomed to and utilize."
"Every time an impaired person uses Safe Ride, that threat is removed," said Howell. "Everyone benefits."