Designating driving deserves respect

It is inevitable: College students party. While every one of those students likes to have a fun time, they would also like to have an opportunity to have many more fun times. Unfortunately, being “designated driver” is classified as dirty work that one is stuck with rather than a respectable responsibility. It seems as though the forced sobriety becomes a stigma when partying, even though the lives of the group depend on this “Designated Dave.” The Student Government Association wanted to implement a safe-rides plan that would allow students to go out and have fun. Afterwards, some dependable students dedicated to sobriety and safety would drive them back to campus after a late night. The program would be a good idea because it ensures students come back to campus alive, even if slightly inebriated. This program would be a great addition to the TCU community because it puts emphasis on trust and, most of all, safety.

Many party-goers underestimate the importance of designated drivers. There are an estimated 22,000 deaths caused by alcohol-related car accidents and about 289,000 injuries, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Those who drive their drunk friends home also reduce the number of intoxicated people out on the road. This program would require volunteers to drive and pick up people and transport them safely back to campus. The volunteers would have a huge responsibility, but they would save lives. These volunteers would not be at the parties and tempted with alcoholic drinks because the most deterring factor of being stuck as a designated driver is the temptation of alcohol.

Kathleen Valde, a communication professor at Northern Illinois University, said that many students believe the designated driver is only required to drink less than everyone else instead of abstaining completely.

The SGA’s attempt to getting this plan accepted so far has failed. The two reasons it has not been passed yet are issues with proper funding and liability. The main concern with liability lies in that students are responsible for the other students they are driving, and the university would have to accept certain risks involved if anything unsafe were to happen since the program is tied to the university. The wheels in the SGA’s heads are still turning as the plan they have can involve other means of transportation besides students. It seems the SGA will not give up that quickly, for the main thing on their minds is the safety of the TCU community.

The University of Texas at Austin has some programs ran by the university health services that promote sobriety and safety. The university has a special Designated Driving Pledge that they have students sign that earns them a reward for pledging to keep their friends safe on one or more occasions. The university also has an “E-bus” (or entertainment bus) program that is run by Austin’s own Capital Metro. It provides a free ride from various parts of campus to downtown Austin and then back. One of the mottos that is proudly displayed on the health services Web site is “designated drivers are the real life of the party.”

If TCU could ever find the funding to create such a program, it would be ideal. If allowing students to volunteer is such a liability then there should at least be a way for TCU to get some public transportation access during weekend nights for the use of TCU students.

Students should learn to respect the people in their lives that ensure their safety. Students who decide to volunteer themselves as designated drivers should recognize the importance of their responsibility and the number of lives they hold in their hands. After all, there is nothing to celebrate when someone gets in a fatal car accident.

Hayley Freeman is a freshman English major from Fort Worth. Her column appears Wednesdays.