Santa Clarita Valley Safe Rides hosted a reunion on Sunday for the volunteers who have served our community for the last 32 years. Dozens of former volunteers came to look through old photo albums and newspapers while sharing stories of their adventures.
As an alternative to drinking and driving, or riding with an unsafe driver, Safe Rides has been offering teenagers a safe, free, and confidential ride home every Friday and Saturday night for the past 32 years. The program shut down in December due to several factors including the rising cost of insurance and increased restrictions on teenage drivers. There are also more ride-sharing services available; thus, teenagers were using Safe Rides less.
Santa Clarita Valley Safe Rides was founded on December 19, 1986, by Penny Upton and Betty Burke Oldfield after six local teenagers died in the preceding eighteen months due to alcohol-related collisions. During the first fifteen years of Safe Rides, the number of local teen fatalities related to drinking and driving was reduced by 95 percent. Then other programs, such as Every 15 Minutes, were presented to high school students to reinforce the dangers of driving under the influence and help keep the aformentioned lower fatality numbers in place.
Safe Rides and its dedicated volunteers have been lauded by school faculty, as well as city, county, and state officials for their contribution of making our community roads safer for everyone. Penny Upton, who has been running the program since its inception, said, “Safe Rides would not have been possible without the enormous support from the community. Thank you to everyone for helping us save lives.”
Over the years, Safe Rides has provided volunteer opportunities to more than 5,000 teens and driven 400,000 plus miles to provide well over 40,000 teens a safe ride home. Koren Young volunteered for the program for 5 years as a teen and an additional 6 years as an adult supervisor. He says, “It’s a bittersweet moment for us. The volunteers enjoyed getting together every weekend and really felt like they were making a difference in their community.”
“Safe Rides was made up of so many unsung heroes that helped keep the streets of Santa Clarita free of intoxicated motorists for over 32 years,” says Tom Iland, former teen volunteer and adult supervisor. “The organization will be missed and continues to serve as a reminder to all that driving under the influence is never the answer.”
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