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DUI arrests rise; Safe Ride adds bus

4/20/2013

By MIKE CORN

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

With the city of Hays on track to a new record for driving under the influence arrests, a second Safe Ride bus has been added to Saturday's schedule.

The second bus will take some of the overflow from an already stretched program designed to give anyone a ride rather than see them take to the streets.

In March, for example, a single bus operating Wednesday through Sunday morning under the Safe Ride umbrella gave 2,041 rides.

But, it also turned aside 261 people who sought rides. Those "refusals," as they're called, run the gamut but include times when the bus was full or when would-be riders were unruly.

In the first three months of 2013, Hays Police made 113 DUI arrests, according to Hays Police Chief Don Scheibler. If the pace continues, he said, Hays could see more than 450 DUI arrests.

For all of last year, there were only 287 arrests.

Of the arrests so far this year, nearly a third of them have been made Saturday night or early Sunday morning.

Eight of every 10 DUI arrests are made on weekends, after midnight Friday through early Sunday morning, Scheibler said.

And more than two-thirds of the people being arrested are less than 25 years old.

Scheibler took the news and a request for an additional bus to the Partnership for a Safe Community, the group that oversees the Safe Ride program, financed through a fee on DUI diversion agreements through Hays Municipal Court and a 25-cent-per-credit-hour fee paid by Fort Hays State University students.

The second bus, he said, will run Saturday nights through the rest of the school year, to see how it was used.

The partnership then will decide if a second bus will be added permanently to the schedule or if other modifications will be made.

Currently, the Safe Ride program operates Wednesdays through Sunday morning.

Since its inception in July 2005, the program has given nearly 82,000 rides covering nearly 93,000 miles.

"We were seeing an increase in DUIs, which was a concern for us," Scheibler said of the reason why he asked the partnership to add the second vehicle.

The increase might stem from a few factors, he said.

"I think this is a combination of the police department being more proactive in traffic enforcement and maybe the community forgetting that Safe Ride is around."

Scheibler said it's important to get people to think about not drinking and driving.

That's why Safe Ride was developed, according to Ed Howell, director of police for FHSU.

"That's what it boils down to," he said. "We don't want you to operate a motor vehicle when you are impaired."

Howell said it's important for people using the program to be patient, given the bus picks up and drops off riders.

And, he said, the program is for anyone.

"You don't have to be a student to take advantage of it," he said.