By Lisa Schumaier
CHRIS CODUTO / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Communications freshman Rebecca Etter (left) and psychology freshman Emily Holleran take advantage of the SafeRide program to get from Skyview Apartments to their sorority house. The two use SafeRide daily.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday January 21, 2003
SafeRide drivers sound off about job perks, strange passengers, campus safety and whether or not they pick up drunk people
It's 9:30 on a Thursday night. For SafeRide, this is the busiest night of the week. SafeRide, however, is not a conventional business. Sponsored by Associated Students of the University of Arizona and run by college students, one objective comes before monetary ambition. Safety. Sunday through Thursday, these students will show you just how serious their drive for safety can be.
The dispatcher answers by the second ring. He asks for the address and the drop-off spot. After giving him a phone number in case the driver has trouble finding the place, callers are instructed to wait outside. About 10 minutes later, a white four-door car is inching down East Seventh Street.
SafeRide operates with three cars and occasionally, a golf cart. Every driver is a student and although they agreed safety is of personal importance, for most of them this is just a job.
Clayton Clark, a sophomore majoring in aerospace engineering, started working for SafeRide in September.
"It is cool. You drive around and talk to people," he said.
CHRIS CODUTO / Arizona Daily Wildcat
SafeRide is a free service that provides students transportation to locations within a one-mile radius of campus after dark.
"I am in it for the novelties," said Louis Wurbe, a media arts junior.
To Wurbe, the novelties include an easy task, a laid-back environment and being able to socialize with random students all over campus.
"I have met a lot of people from SafeRide," he said.
Wurbe stresses the phrase "a lot". While on the job, he has asked out many girls. Female students that think they are avoiding unwanted male attention by dodging dark streets may be surprised. Wurbe, however, assures me that it is harmless fun since SafeRide always turns out to be a social occasion.
One job perk that he does not mention in his list of novelties is the lack of attention they receive from the cops.
"I got pulled over after working a double shift. I said ĪSir, I am so sorry but I am so used to the SafeRide car where if you step on the gas nothing happens and my buddy's car here has a big engine,'" Wurbe said. "The cop proceeded to yell about how they always have a blind eye when it comes to Safe drivers and how all the cops are sick of us."
In many aspects, SafeRide drivers are the campus police. They do not enforce any laws, but their jobs do enforce public security.
"This service exists for girls that don't feel safe walking around campus at night," said Kelly Buckman, an undecided freshman.
With a record amount of rapes last year and attention from major news shows like Dateline, this campus has a slight reputation for crime. But girls are not the only targets.
Check it out
· Sunday ÷ Thursday
· Sunset ÷ 12:55 a.m.
"From personal experience, I was walking around Skyview at 2 a.m. and two guys jumped out of a car and mugged me," Clark said. "Also, there was a lot of racial tension after Sept. 11 and we gave rides to people who were afraid of any backlash."
"I get off work late so it's better than trying to walk across (East) Speedway Boulevard," said Scott Moushon, a pre-business freshman. "If this job works out I will be a regular."
Students don't feel safe on the streets, but one student questioned how safe she was in the car. Florence Whitley, a business freshman, takes SafeRide often because she does not want to walk by herself. When asked what she thought of the Safe drivers she said, "They are fun. There was only one time when I was a little scared to be in the car. He was speeding and taking turns too fast."
But there are two stories to SafeRide ÷ one told from the back seat, and the other from behind the wheel. Safe drivers have encountered questionable students as well.
"I met this girl, Jo. Jo was a punk rock chick. We got in an argument and she almost got out of the car because I didn't like cats. She was a little weird," Wurbe said.
Conversations are not censored in SafeRide and many students enjoy sharing personal information.
"I have gotten some pretty cocky frat guys in here and they always talk trash. I also hear a lot about people's sex lives," Wurbe said.
A girl with brown hair is sitting in the backseat. Three minutes in a car appears to be a substantial amount of time to get to know someone.
"My roommate watches lesbian porn in front of me," she said. "And she has a boyfriend."
Many times the drivers feel as if they are eavesdropping on a private conversation. They pick up students, make small talk, and sometimes they are not invited into the conversation. It is as if they are invisible.
"One thing that irritates me every once in awhile is that people treat me like a taxi driver," Wurbe said. "It's like sometimes I don't exist."
When asked what separates him from a taxi driver, Wurbe said, "They get tips."
"The reason we get behind is because people don't wait outside," Wurbe said.
They are required to wait 10 minutes, which can be irritating on busy nights.
"I love this job, but you know what I don't like about it? I have to work Thursday nights. And here is the only problem: I am sacrificing my social time, and half the people will be drunk out of their minds. They tell me they are going to Cold Stone Creamery. But they are going to Trident (a bar)," Wurbe said.
Students feel the need to lie because it is against SafeRide policy to cater to drinkers. Drivers are prohibited from dropping students off at bars, but more importantly, from picking them up after a night of heavy drinking.
"This isn't a convenient ride," Wurbe said.
"It is just for campus safety. We are not supposed to pick up drunk people," Clark said.
In fact, it is actually unsafe to deal with people who are drunk. In particular instances, students have attempted to bring open beers in the car.
"One drunk guy jumped out in front of my car and started waving his arms around," Clark said.
"It was my first day of work at SafeRide when some drunk girl hit me. I knew she was drunk because after it happened the guy in the car was like ĪGo, go' and she was laughing and drove off," Wurbe said.
Although it is against policy, every driver admitted to driving with drinkers.
"To an extent, we should be there to provide rides for people that shouldn't be driving," Clark said. "I think that is what our service should be for, partly, but to do so we would need more cars and better funding."
"From what I understand, we are run off of ASUA's budget. They give us enough to keep us afloat and no other organization has offered to help our cause," Wurbe said.
Besides drunken people, other students take advantage of a free ride. Only covering a one-mile radius, another policy prohibits drivers from dropping students off at commercial locations.
"We took (SafeRide) a couple times to Blockbuster," said Katie Anicich, a pre-nursing freshman.
But when it comes to real safety issues, policy is left up to the employees' discretion.
"It was Halloween and I was driving down (East) Fourth Street and there was a girl trying to hold this other girl up. This girl could not function so I picked (them) up and took them to Coronado."
Above all, SafeRide is beneficial for those whom it was intended for.
"There are people that get dropped off at the library and they are like, ĪThank you so much,' but then there are just so many drunk assholes, people that are lazy," Wurbe said." Four guys don't have anything to worry about. Technically, we can turn them down, saying ĪThere is no real safety issue for the four of you to walk at nine o'clock at night.' I don't, though. I just drive."