NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s high school students will have a safe way to get home from weekend activities starting this Saturday.
SafeRides Norwalk will make its official debut on the streets of the city starting March 1. The program offers free, confidential car trips within the city’s limits to students registered with SafeRides. Volunteers hope that the system will help avoid the dangers of underage drunken driving.
“Instead of placing his or her life in danger, along with all of his or her friend's, they can all call SafeRides and return home safely,” Brien McMahon senior and SafeRides volunteer Brian Ocampo said via email.
SafeRides has similar programs in Westport, Darien and Wilton. Melissa Rojo, a Norwalk alum and now a sophomore at Princeton, felt that the program could have even more use in a city such as Norwalk. Students in the city have more dangers to worry about when walking home, and there are fewer students with cars to offer sober rides, she says.
“Upon further reflection, it became clear that SafeRides was needed by more than those who find themselves at a party and need a ride home,” Rojo said in an email. “Mainly, it is needed as a way to keep the youth of Norwalk safe, and assure Norwalk parents that their children will be arriving home safely.”
Rojo has gathered about 50 volunteers from the two schools so far. Each shift will have a handful of student dispatchers and drivers working with a parent volunteer.
Each student driver has been a licensed driver for at least four months, and has gone through a training course offered by Mark Dulsky, a parent who serves on the board of the Westport program. Both Dulsky and SafeRides of Westport director Julie Mombello advised Rojo as she got SafeRides Norwalk off the ground.
“Both individuals have given me insight into the potential problems I could face by founding and leading SafeRides and their potential corresponding solutions,” Rojo said. SafeRides Norwalk will be available each Saturday evening from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. starting March 1. The number for the service is 203-939-9199.
Rides are currently only available within the city limits, and will be dispatched on a first-come, first-serve basis. Students must register with the program before calling for a ride for liability purposes. The registration sheet is available on the SafeRides Norwalk Facebook page.