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Weston SafeRides seeks driven adults

For the past two years, the SafeRides program in Weston has been a helpful resource for teens in need of a ride home. But while SafeRides is very popular with high schoolers, the group is actively seeking adult volunteers to lend a hand.

SafeRides operates from Weston Town Hall and provides a free and confidential safe ride home for teens on Saturday nights from 9:30 to 1 a.m. The program is entirely supported by Weston students and adults who volunteer their time.

When someone calls SafeRides looking for help, a teen volunteer is dispatched to drive the person home. The primary goal of SafeRides is to prevent needless deaths on the roadways.

SafeRides programs can be found across the country. Weston celebrated its second anniversary with SafeRides in May.

Jared Kapel, who will be a senior at Weston High School in the fall, is the current president of SafeRides in Weston. “It’s awesome how SafeRides has developed in the past two years. Our goal is to emulate the Ridgefield program where SafeRides is very popular,” he said.

The group keeps an online calendar and fills it with the names of student and adult volunteers who are willing to spend an occasional Saturday night at town hall fielding calls for rides.

While student volunteers do most of the work, insurance for Safe Rides is covered through the Boy Scouts of America, and that requires two adults to be present each night. Adults also help out in case a medical decision needs to be made.

“We have an abundance of students who sign up, but we need more adult volunteers,” said Weston teen Josh Karpen, who is on the SafeRides board of directors.

Josh said one misconception people may have is that adult volunteers need to be parents of high school students. They don’t.

“We accept all adults as volunteers, not just parents. We have a good time, and when things are quiet and we aren’t getting any calls we play board games,” he said.

There are many reasons teens find themselves in need of a safe ride home. They might find themselves impaired from drinking alcohol, or are uncomfortable with someone they are traveling with.

In Connecticut, there is an 11 p.m. curfew for teen drivers under 18. In those cases, when a teen is out past curfew, a SafeRides volunteer can be dispatched to drive the teen home.

SafeRides also helps babysitters when the person who is supposed to drive them home is intoxicated or impaired. “This year we got plenty of calls. The kids really appreciated the service,” Jared said.

SafeRides provides a valuable service for the community as well as the teens it serves, and to date has given more than 200 rides home.

“Our program keeps drivers off the road who should not be driving and that is good for everyone’s public safety,” Josh said.

To fund the program and pay for gas for the drivers, SafeRides relies on donations. Last year it got a big boost from The Weston Women’s League, which held a “Girls’ Night Out” fund-raiser for it. The group also gets donations from cans located at the cash registers at Peter’s Market. Contributions to SafeRides are tax-deductible.

With student volunteers and funding in good shape, the focus now is getting the word out to adults in Weston. “We need adult volunteers very badly,” Jared said.

To learn more about SafeRides and volunteering, contact Jared at jaredkapel@gmail.com or adult volunteer Pam Karpen at pskarpen@aol.com.

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