Alert Cab program provides free sober rides

Alert Cab, a program that provides free taxi cab rides to intoxicated students, has existed for more than 10 years, but students frequently use it once they hear about it.

As part of the program advertised on the Student Government (SG) website, Safe Team facilitates providing free taxi cab rides to USF students of legal drinking age from any alcohol-serving institution in Hillsborough County to any residence also in Hillsborough County.

(Its) basically a sober ride if you had too much to drink, Gary Manka, SG adviser, said.

Since August 2011, Safe Team has received 297 calls from intoxicated students needing rides home.

Manka said Safe Team did not have records of Alert Cab calls prior to 2011.

There are definitely people who have used the services frequent times, Matthew Milton, director of Safe Team and a senior majoring in history and international studies, said. There are people who use it almost biweekly.

Students who have had too much to drink and cant drive home, can call Safe Team at 813- 974-SAFE for a ride.

When a student calls, Safe Team dispatchers ask for names, locations, student ID numbers, drivers licenses and location, then set up a cab ride for the student with United Cab, Milton said.

Alert Cab replaced the previous program Sober Ride, which offered the same services but was funded by students Activity and Service (A&S) fees, in the fall of 2002. The program is instead funded privately by the Pepin Distributing Company.

We dont pay for the rides, Jessica Morgan, SG assistant director for SG advising, training and operations, said. Its not a SG budget line item.

Vasha James, Responder 777 with United Cab, said United Cab is owned by Pepin, which sponsors the program.

We basically do it as a courtesy, James said. It promotes not drinking and driving.

Some of the most frequented establishments that students have been picked up from include popular student hangout spots such as MacDintons, Peabodys and Copper Top Pub, according to SAFE Teams call log.
The majority of users of the service are returning to campus, especially Greek Village or going to the Province Apartments off McKinley Drive, Milton said. Most calls come in between midnight and 2:30 a.m., though the service is available while Safe Team operates, starting at 6:30 p.m. and continuing until 2:30 a.m.

On a peak night Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays we can get over 100 (Safe Team) calls, Milton said. Ive never gotten more than seven (Alert Cab calls) in a night, and thats a busy night.

Milton said he thinks more students should know about the program and its benefit to students.

Its not quite as advertised as it could be, Milton said. A lot of students dont know about it.

Every night, two Safe Team dispatchers split an eight-hour shift from 6:30 p.m. until 2:30 a.m., fielding phone calls, whether for regular Safe Team escorts on campus or Alert Cab requests, and send dispatchers or contact a cab for students.

If a student who is under the legal drinking age calls in requesting a ride, they are turned away, Milton said.

Safe Team dispatchers request drivers license numbers to confirm age when someone calls. Students are also required to have their car keys present.

Its really important to your safety so you arent putting anyone in danger, Milton said.