Committee to provide rides for drinkers

One man’s quest to provide free rides for intoxicated people has arrived at the U’s doorstep.

Last semester, Utah resident Ryan Nielson approached the Associated Students of the University of Utah about starting a designated driving program at the U.

In January 2003, Nielson’s son hit and nearly killed student Ana Paula Bussmann while driving intoxicated.

One year later, Bussmann is in a wheelchair, going through daily intensive therapy, while Nielson’s son is serving time in jail.

According to Nielson, Bussmann will walk again and his son will complete his sentence in August 2006.

Nielson himself now gives rides to drunk people every night of the week, but says it’s not enough.

“I need drivers like crazy,” he said.

ASUU Director of Student Services John Poelman says the story helped influence him to take some action.

Poelman is forming a committee that would serve two primary functions.

First, it would inform students about alcohol abuse through a proposed “Alcohol Awareness Week” with guest lectures and visits to various groups on campus.

Second, it would attempt to set up a designated driving program available for students to use.

Though the committee has no official members to date, Poelman says it is working with several organizations to contact students who might be interested in volunteering their services.

Volunteer work would include attending some meetings and being “on call” some nights during the week in order to pick up people who are too drunk to drive.

Spencer Ricks, president of the Interfraternal Council at the U, says he believes the greeks would support such a program.

Nielson also pledges his support.

“I’ll work with [Poelman] in every possible way I can. I would love to be a part of this,” he said.

Anyone who is interested in being a committee member should contact Poelman at 581-2788 or send an e-mail to [email protected]

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