SafeRides kicks off third year in Wilton

Wilton High School kicked off a third year of its SafeRides program with an orientation meeting for volunteers at Trackside Teen Center on Sept. 13 — just in time for one of its busiest weekends, Homecoming, which is Oct. 3.
Wilton SafeRides is a program in which high school students provide safe and confidential rides for other high school students in Wilton who feel uncomfortable driving themselves home or having someone else drive them home.
This year’s Wilton SafeRides presidents are seniors Jillian Lauricella and Tucker Bendix, both of whom were volunteers last year.
Jillian and Tucker both got involved with the organization through their siblings.
“My older sister, Lindsey, was on the SafeRides board and was a team leader for SafeRides’ first year in Wilton,” said Jillian.
During SafeRides’ first year in town, Jillian — then a sophomore — volunteered on different teams “to get involved as a passenger and understand how the organization worked every night,” she said.
Tucker joined Wilton SafeRides last year through his brother, “who was one of the team captains for the club’s first year,” he said.
“It looked like a lot of fun hanging out with friends and driving other students around, all for a good cause,” said Tucker.

How it works

Wilton SafeRides volunteers work out of Trackside Teen Center, 15 Station Road, on Friday and Saturday nights during the school year from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. The program does not operate on holidays and long weekends.
“The program works with eight teams, each of which takes a Friday or Saturday night shift once a month,” said Tucker. “The teams usually consist of about 14 people.”
On average, Jillian said, Wilton SafeRides volunteers receive about five to 10 calls a night.
“Nights such as Homecoming, Halloween and junior and senior proms are busy because almost all of the high school students are out,” said Jillian. “On busy nights, we can get over 20 calls.”
When a call comes in, Tucker said, “a car with one boy and one girl team member working that night would be dispatched, take the caller home, and the drivers would come back to Trackside.”
Wilton SafeRides has eight board members and a total of about 120 to 130 volunteers have signed up — about 20 to 30 more than last year.
In order to become a Wilton SafeRides driver, Jillian said, a student must:

  • Be a high school student.

  • Have his or her license for more than three months.

  • Drive an insured car.

  • Be able to recognize and address alcohol poisoning.

Volunteers receive about four hours of community service a month through the program — “sometimes eight hours a month if a team works twice one particular month,” said Jillian.
“Students do not get compensated for the gas they use driving,” said Jillian. “It’s just another example of how great and dedicated our volunteers are.”

Student response

Tucker said Wilton SafeRides has “taken off very quickly,” and Jillian said students are “very comfortable” with the program and “have been since it started.”
“We get the word out about our organization through social media to our many followers,” said Jillian.
“Also, before our first working weekend, we put flyers promoting SafeRides on the students’ cars in the senior and junior parking lots.”
Jillian said there is a stigma against SafeRides — “that we’re encouraging underage drinking” — but, she said, that is far from the truth.
“Our main goal of the program is to get drunk drivers off the road,” she said. “Above all else, we want to create a safer environment for the town of Wilton.”
Tucker agreed and said SafeRides is “a great program” that he is “proud to be a part of.”

Click here to learn more about Wilton SafeRides.