GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - To give college students a safe way home Fridays and Saturdays no questions asked, Colorado Mesa University funded a new program in 2012-13. Called MavRides, it's a student-run group made of paid staff and volunteers. The program is growing in popularity and need as students learn about it.
"It's important to have a safe outlet," MavRides manager and 20-year-old CMU sophomore Alex Forsett said. "It gives students opportunities to make safe decisions. It's a college and there's drinking. And drinking and driving is definitely there. We just try to prevent it as much as possible."
Previously, CMU had a club called Safe Rides. Forsett noted that its operation was spotty. Sometimes volunteers wouldn't show up, and students used their own cars.
"The school and student government wanted a reliable program," he said. "We've done more than 1,000 rides, and this year is the first year."
Only students can use MavRides, and it's not just used to promote sober driving. It can also be utilized to take students to Walmart, for instance.
"It's a really good thing for the school and the community," Forsett added.
MavRides started operating during the fall semester in 2012. It has a school-funded budget - $53,000 over two years. It rents three cars each weekend, and student clubs take turns driving the vehicles.
"Clubs receive a monetary donation of $100 a night to supply volunteers," Forsett said.
Six volunteers are needed to drive the cars - two each who operate as a buddy team. Each car has a cell phone and a GPS unit. Cars drive from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday only.
Forsett is one of three students on the MavRides' paid staff. He said he manages the volunteers, while two other students act as dispatch.
"We have times that it is a half-an-hour wait," he noted. "We definitely recommend people to call ahead."
MavRides is additionally seeking community support as it grows in 2013.
"We want to work with local businesses," Forsett said. "We're looking at getting our own vehicles. We need more volunteers."
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/CMUMAVRides or call 970-248-2222 to get a ride.