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It’s Josh here, managing editor of the Extra!. Over the last weekend, I had the privilege and opportunity to receive a ride home by one of the more unique non-profits in our area, Dylan’s Drivers. The experience was a pleasure, and I would suggest to anyone out there that is out and drinking, to pick up the phone and call them before you decide to take the wheel.
In case you didn’t know, Dylan’s Drivers is a safe ride program that offers free, confidential and non-judgmental rides home to those that have consumed alcohol. Vicki and Ronnie Ballard established DD in late 2011, giving their first round of rides on the New Year’s weekend of 2012.
The organization was founded shortly after the Ballard’s tragic loss of their son Dylan in an alcohol related accident in July 2011. The name was chosen in his honor and memory, and Ronnie and Vicki set out to create something good from their loss — something some would consider life changing.
Since its inception this program has grown tremendously, giving 41 rides over last weekend (one of those being me), bringing the grand total of rides given to 1498. That is almost 1500 people that did not drive while under the influence, did not have an alcohol related accident, made it home safely, and for their sake, did not get arrested.
The organization — in just a little over a year — has become an established fixture in our community, naming an executive director, Paul Allen, and establishing an annual fundraiser, Rides for a Reason, which in its first year was a hugely successful event. They are a non-profit, financially maintained by community support, donations and their fundraisers.
Community support is something they have received a lot of, as many business and restaurants all around Paris and Lamar County have supported by donating food and coffee to the volunteers, while others have given monetary donations or in-kind gifts such has telephones, computers, televisions, office supplies, etc. Without this needed support, the organization would have a hard time functioning.
The experience of riding home in the Dylan’s Drivers volunteer vehicle on last Friday night was worth it. I had had a couple drinks and did not need to be driving, so their number was called. My sole intention was to get a feel for how the program works and then tell the public the experience.
Volunteer dispatcher Blake Newman directed the volunteers to our location, and within a few minutes, they arrived and I was out of the cold and safely on my way home.
Inside the vehicle, for the duration of the trip, volunteers Jeremy Wilson, who manned the wheel, and Brian and Bailey Ray asked trivia questions and made conversation. The trivia that they play is in the spirit of Paris & Lamar County, asking questions like ‘How tall is our Eiffel Tower?’, ‘What year was the Great Paris Fire?, and ‘Who is the mayor of Blossom?’. There are even prizes given on some rides. It was a pleasant experience that I would do again.
Sometimes in a town such as Paris, where there is little ‘entertainment’, often times going out with friends to a bar or other establishment that serves alcohol is the best choice in nightlife fun. Now, that’s not to say that the towns with many forms of ‘entertainment’ have less drinkers necessarily, their bars are still popular.
Americans love to drink. And, sadly enough, many of these drinkers choose to drive home afterwards, whether intoxicated or not. I’m not trying to say that it makes these people bad — I’m no judge — however, it does make that particular choice very bad, and I’m not talking about having the drinks.
Did you know?
According to www.Census.gov, in 2009 there were almost 11 million vehicle accidents in the United States, with just under 36,000 of them resulting in at least one fatality in the year. Of these fatal crashes, over 3,000 of them were in Texas.
In the same year, there were 45,230 drivers involved in these fatal crashes that had consumed alcohol — 22.3% had a Blood Alcohol Content of .08 or greater.
Every day, almost 30 people in the U.S. die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
And, according to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) website, over 1.41 million drivers were arrested in 2010 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.
These numbers speak for themselves. Many people are losing their lives or getting arrested due to decisions made after consuming alcohol. Dylan’s Drivers is an organization dedicated to changing those numbers, if at least just here in Paris, Texas, and not by telling people that they should not drink.
With that in mind, DD has caught quite the criticism of some, saying that the organization promotes and condones the drinking of alcohol. It is in my opinion that this is untrue and not the idea behind the charity effort. Actually, to say that having Dylan’s Drivers in place promotes the act drinking alcohol in any fashion, is almost as if saying that having a police force established is to promote crime or acts against peace. As I said, in my opinion. Where there is freedom, there will be crime, and where there is a legal drinking age and a supply of alcohol, people will drink. We assuredly need the police, and I’d say we need Dylan’s Drivers.
They are open Thursday through Saturday, every weekend, from 10pm-3am. If you are considering going out for drinks with friends or otherwise, please consider also giving Dylan’s Drivers a call if you do not have a sober driver — it could be the difference in the lives of so many, including yourself. It’s FREE, it’s safe, it’s fun, confidential and non-judgmental. Don’t drink and drive. It’s not safe. Call Dylan’s Drivers — (903) 905-4959.