I can’t believe it is already March! I feel like it was just yesterday that I penned my column about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I hope this month brings us some warm weather, but while I wait to see what Mother Nature has in store, I’m excited to tell you about a new program that we are bringing to Delaware County for the first time! This program is dubbed “Decide to Ride,” and its goal is to help prevent impaired driving during celebratory events and holidays, like this upcoming St. Patrick’s Day.
Before I get into the details of the “Decide to Ride” program, I want to take you on a walk down memory lane. I feel compelled to give you an example of why I am continuously on my soapbox about impaired driving. In 2019, a man was seriously injured after being struck by a car on March 16. The driver of the vehicle fled the scene and, but for the amazing work of the Delaware Police Department, his identity may have never been known. Fortunately, because of the astute detectives with DPD, the driver was apprehended and prosecuted. Now, because the driver fled the scene, I would never conclusively be able to say that he was driving impaired when he struck the pedestrian. To be clear, this suspect was not convicted of any crime involving impaired driving. However, this isn’t my first rodeo (or trip around the block) when it comes to impaired driving, and, generally speaking, it begs the question, “If you weren’t impaired, why would you flee the scene after striking an object, let alone a person?” This case, and so many other cases that come through the Delaware County Prosecutor’s Office where adults, children, and families have died or been injured because of impaired drivers is why I decided to bring “Decide to Ride” to Delaware County. If this program can reach just one person about the dangers of impaired driving and help someone get home safely, I will feel like a success!
The dangers of impaired driving exist every day. Each time someone decides to drink or use drugs and then gets behind the wheel, they jeopardize their own well-being and the well-being of anyone they may come across. While I don’t want to sound like I’m the conductor of the crazy train, it is worth repeating and shouting from every rooftop, “Don’t drive impaired!” I am proud to bring a program to Delaware County that will help bring awareness to impaired driving, involve community partners, and give them a resource to promote sober and safe driving, and most importantly, to help protect all motorists on the roadway during the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations that occur in Delaware County. And yes, we thought St. Patrick’s Day would be a great time to roll out our program given the horrific crash in 2019.
Our new program, “Decide to Ride,” is adopted from other prosecutor’s offices in Ohio (namely Montgomery and Summit counties), and we are debuting this program in two different cities in Delaware County: Powell and Delaware. The funding for the program does not come from taxpayer dollars, but rather from drug forfeiture money (money seized from drug traffickers). More importantly, we are able to partner with law enforcement and local businesses to ensure that anyone enjoying the celebrations can “Decide to Ride” and keep our roads safe during St. Patrick’s Day and the festivities surrounding it.
So, you ask, how does it work? Well, it’s pretty simple. Anyone out and about on select days surrounding St. Patrick’s Day can input a code into their Lyft app and receive a $20 credit for choosing this ride share opportunity to safely drive them home. The code will be available on select days at select businesses in Delaware and in Powell. Anyone who wants to take advantage of this safe ride home will need to be in Delaware County, and it is limited to the first 150 users in Delaware and the first 150 users in Powell.
Follow our office and our partners on Facebook to learn about all of our programming and more specifically, our new “Decide to Ride” campaign. Special thanks to all of our partners and local businesses willing to support this inaugural event.
Melissa A. Schiffel is Delaware County prosecutor.