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Wednesday October 25, 2000

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UA-area bars offer new designated driver service

By Ryan Gabrielson

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Volunteers, UA students drive intoxicated patrons home

When patrons leave Gentle Ben's and Xs after an evening of drinking alcohol, they have one fewer excuse to drive while intoxicated.

"Some people who are young think they're pretty invincible," said Troy Wagner, head of Tucson's chapter of the Designated Drivers Association.

With that idea in mind, Wagner began a service that drives patrons of the bars at Gentle Ben's Brewery, 865 E. University Blvd., and Xs, 536 N. Fourth Ave., home when they've had too much to drink.

"Liability is their big issue," Wagner said. "We are their insurance policy."

About 20 volunteers - including some UA students - drive intoxicated bar patrons home in the patrons' cars so they will not have to return to the bar the next morning to retrieve their cars as they would if they called a cab.

"It takes another excuse away from people," he said.

As one of the volunteers drives the patron home, another serves as a chaser, picking the volunteer up when they drop the patron off.

"You figure, you keep people from dying," said Paul Miller, a hydrological engineering sophomore who originally joined the organization to fulfill a community service requirement.

Wagner started the program in June as a way to deal with a motorcycle collision he was in that resulted in a friend's death.

"It's hard to have someone's death on your hands," Wagner said. "It pretty much gave me a purpose.

"I couldn't let her death be in vain," he added.

Wagner began looking for a way to begin a program that could keep people from driving intoxicated and came upon the Designated Drivers Association, a national organization.

The Tucson chapter of the Designated Drivers Association now only serves two bars, but Wagner said they are trying to expand to the rest of the bars in the University of Arizona community.

Eventually, Wagner said he hopes the organization will serve all of Tucson.

For a bar to receive the organization's service, they must make a $100 donation and sign a contract that allows DDA to operate out of that business.

"If you're going to support us, you can have our service," Wagner said.

The volunteers who work the busy nights for those bars - Thursday, Friday and Saturday - are either stationed at the bar, handing out cards to inform patrons that the service exists, or are on call.

"I know that it makes me feel better to know we have that service," said Dave Lukaszewski, co-owner of Xs. "College students aren't known for pacing themselves."

Lukaszewski said he's in favor of the other bars on Fourth Avenue and around the UA campus donating and taking advantage of the service.

"It's a cheap insurance policy," Lukaszewski said.