Safe Ride Rolls Out Changes

By Katy Shenk
Elm Staff Writer

Although Safe Ride was instituted at Washington College just 12 years ago, it has already experienced remarkable growth, according to President Christina Pletcher, senior.

What began as one small van and a single Public Safety dispatcher now encompasses a fleet of three 15-passenger vans, each with their own driver and dispatcher. A vital service on campus, Safe Ride is looking to incorporate three main changes to make the program more efficient for students.

The first modification is a shift to Verizon’s “One Talk,” which connects multiple devices with a single phone number. Instead of the Public Safety dispatcher receiving calls directly and sending them to the separate vans, now all four van phones ring at once, Pletcher said.

“We’re not missing any calls. There’s also less chance for miscommunication between the vans,” she said.

The service was installed a few weeks ago, and it’s been running smoothly so far, according to Pletcher.

The second transition would require students to scan their ID cards when entering a Safe Ride vehicle, in order to track the number of students who use Safe Ride. The first trial run, in partnership with Student Affairs, occurred last week.

The idea was to provide each Safe Ride van with a phone scanner, like those used to scan credit cards. During the trial run, however, the scanner failed to work 50 percent of the time. Even when it did, it was very time consuming, she said.

The longer it takes to scan students in, the longer it takes Safe Ride to respond to student calls, according to Pletcher.

Safe Ride and Student Affairs are in the process of contacting the ID card manufacturers to see if the issue lies in the card scanner code. If the issue is unable to be resolved, the solution may be to find scanning devices similar to those on college buildings, which are compatible with Student IDs.

The next modification has been to change the Safe Ride route of where students can be dropped off or picked up. The new route includes Hodson Hall, Miller Library, Minta Martin Hall, the Johnson Fitness Center, and Harford Hall. In the past, students could be picked up at the Fish Whistle, but that is no longer an option.

Safe Ride is also considering an app that would make it easier for students to contact them directly.

Besides technical changes, Pletcher expressed a desire to maintain the behavior of groups using Safe Ride for transportation. When students are loud and rowdy, it distracts the drivers, which is ultimately unsafe for both parties, she said.

To address this problem, Safe Ride staff posted the most important Safe Ride policies in every van. The signs ask students to refrain from bringing alcohol or open containers onto the vans, and to keep their volume to a minimum.

The rules have helped maintain student conduct in the vans, Pletcher said.

Safe Ride hours are Sunday through Wednesday from 8-11:45 p.m., Thursday from 8 p.m. to 2:15 a.m., and Friday to Saturday from 9 p.m. to 2:15 a.m.

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