Designated driver service uses BMWs to get volunteers
Members of the Kaiserslautern military community’s Armed Forces Against Drunk Driving hope a cool set of wheels will entice more volunteers to come out for weekend duty.
Designated drivers will have the chance to drive a new BMW, on loan from Pentagon Car Sales in Ramstein-Miesenbach. In a gesture to help out the military, the car agency last month set aside three new BMWs for the group to use on Friday and Saturday nights. Volunteers will pick up the fully gassed cars at the start of their Friday night shift and return them Sunday.
The BMWs will be on loan to AADD for three to four months, after which they’ll be swapped out with new models, said Gary Ashmore of Pentagon Car Sales.
The only caveat: no drunk passengers.
But even when AADD drivers were using their own cars, they didn’t shuttle drunks, members said.
"Two drivers go out and we pick them and their vehicle up," said Senior Airman Benjamin Rongey, the organization’s new president. One volunteer drives the intoxicated person home in his or her own vehicle, and the other volunteer follows.
Getting enough volunteers was sometimes a challenge, Rongey and others said. Squadrons would sign up months in advance for a weekend and sometimes would call at the last minute saying no one was available. Typically, the lowest-ranking airmen in a squadron would be told they had to volunteer, said former AADD president Staff Sgt. Chris Gilbert. And volunteering could be expensive, especially when gas prices were high, as airmen previously had to use their own car and gas.
"There were nights last year we had to shut down entirely" due to lack of volunteers, Rongey said.
AADD needs about 10 to 12 people per night. Shifts run from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Volunteers meet upstairs in the Ramstein Enlisted Club’s Conference Room. This year, the organization has fielded more than 1,700 calls, taking between 20 and 30 people home on average. Call them at 0631-536-AADD (2233).
Base officials at Ramstein say AADD is just one tool the military is using in the Kaiserslautern military community to combat drinking and driving. Since November, Air Force security forces have conducted 36 random DUI checkpoints at across the community.
So far in 2009, DUIs are down more than 32 percent compared to last year, according to base officials at Ramstein. No one to date has been arrested on the spot for a DUI at a checkpoint, but base officials believe the program has a deterrent effect.