DUIs drop as 2,000 residents in 2 NJ towns get free rides home
EVESHAM — In the past year, 2,000 residents of Evesham and Voorhees have made it home safely after a night out drinking, thanks to a program that provides rides for people who are unable to get behind the wheel.
The Evesham Saving Lives initiative began as a pilot program on Sept. 24, 2015, and was supposed to continue for 30 days. A month later, officials extended the program after learning that hundreds of locals had taken advantage of the service. The success of the initiative then prompted Police Chief Christopher Chew and Evesham Mayor Randy Brown to further expand and continue the Saving Lives program.
The mayor said the program has reduced the number of residents arrested for drunk driving by 50 percent. The police chief said there has also been a 16 percent decrease in alcohol-related car accidents since people began using the service. The mayor said that figure is impressive considering that 90,000 cars per day pass through the municipality via Routes 70 and 73.
Here's how the program works: Residents who feel they've had too much to drink and are unable to drive between the hours of 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. can use the free Uber or BeMyDD apps to request a ride. When they select Evesham/Voorhees, the rides home are provided free of charge.
In addition, Brown said, although the program costs about $10,000 per year to operate, none of it comes from local taxpayers. The township started the Evesham Saving Lives Foundation, which uses private donations to pay for the rides. He said as the program has continued to be successful, additional organizations have made donations. Brown is hoping that at some point, grant money will also become available to help with funding.
"We're doing this without increasing our budget, without laying off officers, and in fact we're even actually more proactive with some of our spare time in going out and identifying those individuals who still drive while intoxicated," Police Chief Chew said during a recent press conference regarding the Saving Lives program.
The mayor also insists that the town isn't losing any revenue due to the drastic decrease in summonses for DUI arrests. He said Evesham has found alternate ways to bring in revenue, such as construction permits for nearly $400 million in redevelopment projects that are currently underway in town. In addition, since many of the roadways are state roads, about 75 percent of the money collected from DUI summonses went to the state, rather than the township.
Word of the program's success has also spread to other towns in new Jersey as well as other states. Brown said he's currently working with communities in California and Michigan to help them launch similar initiatives and he's hoping Saving Lives will continue indefinitely in Evesham and Voorhees.
"We’ve extended the program for a full year, but as long as I’m mayor we’ll have this program," Brown said. "I think it's a program that really should last forever."
Toniann Antonelli is a social content producer for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.