Aug 262003
Authors: Carl McCutchen

Free soda. Free coffee. Free tea. Every non-alcoholic beverage is on the house if one is the DD.

It is just one advantage of taking part in Fort Collins’ SMART Ride program.

The program, which was originally introduced in 1999 by the Associated Students of CSU and by the Poudre Valley Health System’s Reduced Intoxicated Driving Division, allows bar and restaurant patrons to drink as much as they choose and have an easy, safe way to get home.

The drinking party chooses a designated driver before leaving for a night out on the town at a participating sponsor and then, lets their server or bartender know they want to participate in the SMART Ride program and who is driving.

The driver is then eligible to receive any non-alcoholic drink and unlimited refills for free. Designated drivers can also receive a voucher for food or discount admission on their next trip.

David Wade, manager of the Rio Grande restaurant, 143 W. Mountain Ave., said his restaurant gets a few questions about SMART Ride every week, but overall awareness and participation is low.

“I think it’s a good program, but not enough people know about it,” Wade said.

Despite low participation, supporters of the program feel that it is getting the job done.

Kim Schmidt of the Reduced Intoxicated Driving Division said it is a great program to prevent drunk driving and is also a great incentive program to make people think before going out.

“The hope is that they catch the drift,” she said.

Schmidt also said that the program is a great opportunity for participating places to get repeat business.

Katie Clausen, vice president for ASCSU, praised the program for rewarding smart students who choose not to drive drunk.

“We have the step of educating students first, rewarding students that are smart and providing a safe ride home for people,” she said.

To address the issue of awareness and participation, ASCSU and PVH’s Reduced Intoxicated Driving Division are creating new ways and ideas to inform people about the SMART Ride program.

Schmidt said her office is working on recruiting new sponsors and getting the current ones to renew. They are also working on printing new posters and hoping to launch their marketing campaign in October.

Ben Goldstein, director of student services for ASCSU, has also been working on a new marketing campaign as well as new promotional material to get the program known.

“We’ve created a new voucher system that will encourage servers to let patrons know about the program,” Goldstein said. “We look forward to a good year of responsible behavior around alcohol.”

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