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Safe Ride

Whether it's Google or one of the auto manufacturers that introduces the first functional, self-driven vehicle is difficult to predict at this point. What's not is that it will happen eventually.

So-called driverless cars will revolutionize U.S. travel. And the effect on DUI arrests and MADD's lobbying efforts will be profound.

Until then, however, we will rely on education efforts, public transportation and law enforcement attempting to keep the streets and highways free of impaired drivers.

The City of Hays employs a unique approach in this public safety concern. The Safe Ride bus, under the auspices of the Partnership for a Safe Community, runs Wednesday through Saturday evenings. Financed with a Fort Hays State University student fee and the Hays Municipal Court, the bus offers free rides to anybody who requests one. Since first hitting the streets in 2005, Safe Ride has delivered almost 82,000 individuals to their destination -- incident-free.

The effective program has proven so popular there are times when would-be riders are turned away because the bus is too full.

That fact, combined with an increase this year in DUI arrests, has led the Partnership for a Safe Community to add a second bus.

"We were seeing an increase in DUIs, which was a concern for us," said Hays Police Chief Don Scheibler.

Unruly individuals still will be refused service, but the capacity issue should be resolved. The second bus will run on Saturday nights through the end of school year, at which time its overall effectiveness and cost will be evaluated.

As 80 percent of DUI arrests are made between midnight Friday and early Sunday morning, the doubled-up Safe Ride option is suitably timed. Actually, we would encouraged the Partnership to consider running it on Friday nights as well so the entire weekend is covered.

We appreciate the pro-active approach taken with the Safe Ride program. It is obvious to us the concept works. We simply wish the 113 individuals arrested for driving under the influence this year already would have recognized the same before their unfortunate encounter with law enforcement.

As a reminder to readers, Safe Ride's number is (785) 621-2580. You need not be a student nor even be intoxicated to utilize its services. It runs from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net