Audio – Brian Johnson, a member of Sigma Alpha Mu, quickly shares why he joined Driving Jacks recently and his experience so far.
By Piero Pretto, SFA Senior
As of Sept. 22, 2013, Driving Jacks has given 19,459 safe rides to students at SFA and the surrounding Nacogdoches community. That’s far more many lives saved as students currently enrolled at SFA – 12,903. That’s more than 10 times as many lives saved as lost every year due to alcohol-related deaths among college students (1,825 according to a recent National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism study.) That’s important when one in three people will be involved in an alcohol-related crash in their lifetime, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD.)
According to the organization’s website, “Driving Jacks was created in October 2004 in response to the untimely death of Amy Shields. While the event was tragic, it motivated students to a noble cause which Amy had once passionately advocated, the creation of a student-run designated driver program. Soon after her death, three members of the Student Government Association avidly dedicated themselves to the creation of a new sub-committee devoted to her cause. The organization would later become known as Driving Jacks.”
The organization’s sole purpose is to provide free, safe, confidential and non-judgmental rides home for both the SFA and Nacogdoches community. They rely on community and individual sponsorships and grants to fund their operations. According to past Driving Jacks president Brittany Minchew, the program costs $26,000 a year to operate.
Little known fact – Driving Jacks accepts tips from its patrons. It’s the convenient way to show support for the organization. Driving Jacks members also sells concessions at basketball and football games and holds many reoccurring fundraisers including the Car Bash, the Mr. Greek pageant, a 5K race and Penny Wars. The Director of Community Relations, Chris Clays, says the organization is also seeking sponsorship from outside of the Nacogdoches community, including big cities like Dallas and Houston.
The next Car Bash, a fundraiser that allows students to beat up a used car with a sledge hammer, will be held near Surfin’ Steve during Homecoming Week. Driving Jacks will follow that with a cookout Oct. 22 in the same location.
Another way to show support is by sponsoring a car or a van for a group event – $150 for one car and $175 for a van. Many Greek organizations in the past have used this option to increase risk management measures for large social events.
Finally, you can show your support by becoming a volunteer member. Phyllis D’Eugenio, who has served as a Driving Jacks member for 5 semesters, said she joined the organization because it was rooted in a good idea.
“Every student could use a DD (Designed Driver) from time to time,” D’Eugenio said “Why not serve as a Nacogdoches DD?” Clay joined because he fell in love with the mission.
Since alcohol creates controversy, some critics suggest that Driving Jacks encourages excessive drinking due to its willingness to provide sober rides home, including to those drinking underage. Driving Jacks responses to such criticism on their website – “We feel that it is a student’s choice whether or not they drink. Driving Jacks is a non-judgmental service and we are neither for nor against drinking. If a student decides to drink, we will be there to provide a free, safe ride home. Driving Jacks works with Nacogdoches Safe and Drug Free to help promote the safe use of alcohol and to teach students about the proven effects of binge drinking. We take sober patrons home when they are in need, so our numbers reflect both sober and intoxicated patrons.”
In response to assisting underage drinking, the organization adds that if “a person thinks that we turn in underage drinkers, then Driving Jacks will have a bad reputation among the community. This will lead to less trust by the patrons and eventually students will not call Driving Jacks even when they need the service. Driving Jacks is not a law enforcement entity. We are simply here to ensure patrons get home safely when they are in need of a ride due to alcohol or other circumstances.”
Driving Jacks is always looking to expand. Interested applicants can apply to become volunteer members at www.drivingjacks.org. For a free confidential ride, call (936) 652-6600. Operating times are Thursday through Saturday 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.
If you have any comments or questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.