By Nicholas Carr of The Orion
For two young adults propped up against a wall on the corner of Fifth and Ivy streets just before 3 a.m. Sunday, it was time to call it a night.
Because of their level of intoxication, staying off the pavement was a challenge in itself. Finding their way home to a residence hall on the northwest side of the university posed a conundrum common to students that frequent the South Campus party scene.
They could try walking through campus, where University Police have reported two attempted sexual assaults in the past two months.
They could join the throng of pedestrians stumbling in and out of traffic on Nord Avenue, where last September a student died following an alleged DUI hit-and-run.
They could compete with the multitude of other party-goers trying to hail a taxi as bars closed and house parties winded down.
Or they can catch ride with Matthew Riebe.
Riebe, a junior public administration major, is starting a a designated driver service to help students get home safely.
After shepherding the man and woman into his Ford Taurus, Riebe gave them water bottles and a lift to their home for the night, free of charge.
“I wasn’t going to let them walk home alone,” Riebe said.
The program’s goal is to offer a cost-free option in escaping precarious situations found after a night of partying or when stranded alone late at night. This past weekend, Riebe took the program on a test drive.
“After a while I realized enough is enough,” Riebe said. “I’ve seen plenty of people that have been harmed by everything that’s been going around.”
Using a Facebook page called Your Safe Ride Home, Riebe coordinates pick-ups with potential passengers between midnight and 4 a.m. on weekends.
Students can use the page to disclose their number of passengers, location and when they need a ride, as long as the destination is where they plan on sleeping for the night.
Using a Facebook page as the program’s scheduling device has the added benefit of providing him with instant background checks for safety’s sake.
“I want to keep it primarily just to a community thing where it can be just for students,” Riebe said.
Currently Riebe is the only driver for the service. In the long-term, he wants to make the program a sustainable and reliable resource for students. This may include taking on volunteer drivers.
Ideally drivers would receive some kind of emergency response training, he said. This could entail requiring the university’s Red Watch Band alcohol awareness training so that they can react to dangerous situations.
Riebe says he realized the potential for danger in Chico when he was a freshman. While walking down Ivy Street, a group of about five men assaulted him.
“When I was being choked, there were just dozens of people there watching it happen,” Riebe said.
Your Safe Ride Home can help prevent the same kind of bystander apathy he faced by acting as a community watch program, he said.
The goal isn’t to dissuade people from drinking or enjoying their time in college, Riebe said. Hopefully the program can put sober eyes on dangerous situations before they develop.
Riebe started planning the program at the Community Call to Action, an event held in spring 2013 to address alcohol-related issues in Chico.
“I believe there was a real powerful ideology behind that,” Riebe said. “It was a whole lot of our best leaders around the community.”
The Call to Action developed good ideas about promoting safety in Chico, but since then the momentum for implementing change has slowed, he said.
Programs held by Students Against Violence Everywhere, the Associated Students and the street light check-ups conducted by Phi Chi Theta are evidence that students are willing to address safety issues in Chico, he said.
While the program is still in it’s planning stages, hopefully others can be an inspired to bring their own ideas and get involved, Riebe said. As more people volunteer, the service can be expanded.
“I’m hoping that people will be able to see this as a kind of ‘Call to Action’ in itself,” he said.