Over the last couple months, students at six local high schools, including EDSS, have had the chance to feel a little safer if they attend a party that gets out of hand or miss the last bus home.
Through a pilot project called “My Safe Ride Home,” a partnership between the school board and five local cab companies has been created allowing students to call a number on a plastic card and within minutes a cab will arrive to take him or her home.
The card, which looks like a debit or credit card, has to be loaded ahead of time with a payment of $30, which is good for one ride from anywhere in the Waterloo Region.
If the ride is not used within the year, the money goes to a non-profit organization, the Waterloo Education Foundation, which is associated with the public school board and provides educational opportunities to low-income students.
A similar program already exists in British Columbia, Australia, New Zealand and cities in the United States.
“It’s a win-win situation,” said Mary Anne Richer, principal at EDSS. “Students can feel safe knowing they have a ride home, but if they do not use it the money goes right back to the schools.”
Last summer the school sent pamphlets and plastic cards home with the information about the program so parents can register online.
Participating taxi companies know if a student calls under the program and the call is immediately placed at the top of the priority list. The closest cab then picks up the student; in most cases that means a ride will arrive in five minutes or less.
“As a mother myself I did not even think twice about joining the program. My daughter has one that she can carry and no matter what happens if she misses the last bus or ends up at a party too far away to walk home, she can call the number and be safe,” said Richer. “Kids today sometimes find themselves at parties where their driver has started drinking and need an alternate way home – this gives it to them.”
Whether the student is in Kitchener going to Waterloo or at a prom in New Hamburg and lives in Elmira, they just need to call the cab and they will pick them up and return them to the address registered to the card.
Each card is a one-shot deal, but more rides can be added to the card afterwards.
So far EDSS has fewer than 10 students registered for the program.
“I would have guessed that parents would have been all over this project to give their kids every opportunity to be safe,” said Richer. “Maybe kids are not talking about it at home. When students are in high school you tend to hear very little at home about programs.
Last week marked one year since the automobile accident that claimed the life of Miles Hamilton, a former EDSS student who was on his way home after graduation when he was killed.
Richer said the program would prevent accidents like that from occurring.
“It is at a time where it could not be more acute then it is right now,” she said. “This school has had a history of driving accidents more than any other school in the county. This is an opportunity for a rural school to take advantage of a program that is county to county. This is basically an intervention program.”