Evesham has given 500 drunken residents free rides home in 2 months
A couple of weeks ago we reported on a pilot program in Evesham Township that offered local residents a free ride home if they had been out drinking and didn’t feel comfortable driving their car.
The program has been so successful that it’s being extended, and probably expanded as well.
“Since we’ve started this program Sept. 4, we’ve brought over 500 Evesham residents home from Evesham bars and restaurants. There’s 19 participating bars and restaurants,” says Evesham Mayor Randy Brown.
He calls the Saving Lives program one of the best programs ever to be developed in town.
It began using township shuttle buses and the Sober Sam designated driver service, but it’s now being run in partnership with Uber and BeMyDD.
“The program is pretty simple. Between the hours of 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. we’ll take you home for free via Uber or we’ll take you and your car home for free via BeMyDD,” Brown said.
Brown says he got the idea for this program after talking with Police Chief Chris Chew, and realizing the town was on pace to have more than 250 DUI’s this year alone.
“We’ve put a lot of money into DUI enforcement, so I wanted to find a solution and I said 'chief, let’s just find a way to drive them home, give them an option,' and since then the program has progressed. We’ve actually been contacted by multiple counties and multiple towns in the state of New Jersey to replicate our program,” the mayor said.
Brown, however, wouldn't identify the other municipalities or counties who have contacted him.
“I’m not at liberty to say which towns and counties have reached out to us because right now we’re in the process of working with them,” he said. “I’m hopeful that they will roll out a program similar to ours before the holiday season, and I’m excited for it and that’s the whole point. This should not be an Evesham program, at the end of the day this should be a New Jersey program and it should be a United States program."
According to Brown, politicians get a bad rap sometimes “because a small minority of them do stupid things. We have thousands of politicians who do the right thing every day, and are concerned about the residents they serve, and I’m proud to be one of them.”
He said no one is sure of the exact number of town residents who have taken advantage of the program because they count rides, not specific individuals, and there may be up to four people getting a ride in an Uber car.
“We’re never going to know the exact number of people we’ve taken home and we’re never going to know the number of lives that have been saved,” he said. “But if we’ve taken one person home who was not comfortable driving, the program is a success.”
The pilot program was scheduled to end on Jan. 2 of next year, but things have changed. Brown says many local businesses are contributing to the program so taxpayer money isn’t used.
“As long as I’m mayor, this program will be in effect in Evesham. This is a public-private partnership that works. It’s not Republican, Democrat or Independent. It’s the town coming together to create a fantastic program help people," Brown said.
Ana Mahony, the Uber New Jersey general manager, is glad to have her company involved.
“Uber is very excited to be working on this first of its kind partnership to offer late night rides to residents,” she said. "We want to be a partner to local governments and organizations in helping them solve some of the problems they face.”
The average Uber ride in the program costs between $5 and $10 dollars, but residents are not charged anything.
“The residents at one of the participating bars and restaurants in town can get a ride by opening the Uber app, clicking on Evesham, then 'request a ride,' and within minutes, a car will come pick them up," she said.
Mahony said many Garden State towns may soon set up similar types of programs.
“We’ve had incredible inbound requests from all different parts of New Jersey since announcing this partnership,” Mahony said.