STRATFORD, Conn. — A first-of-its-kind pilot program will offer Stratford residents free weekend rides to curb drunken driving, the town, Uber and the nonprofit Wayne’s Walk announced Thursday.
If all goes well, Uber would like to roll out similar programs across the state and the nation, said Matt Powers, general manager of Uber Connecticut.
“We know that when people have reliable options like Uber to get a ride home, they’re more likely to make smarter choices,” he said. “I hope this serves as a model for other towns and cities throughout Connecticut and across the country.”
Wayne’s Walk, a Stratford-based organization that supports drunken driving awareness and education programs, is funding the Safe Rides Uber Program with a $12,500 donation from Paul Pabst. That is half of his earnings from winning a charity "Sports Jeopardy" game.
Pabst is executive producer of “The Dan Patrick Show,’” a talk radio and simulcast program.
The town contributed another $5,000 from the Mayor's Charity Golf Tournament to get the program up and running, said Mayor John Harkins.
Here’s how it works: During February, all Uber rides taken on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. in the town of Stratford will be free, for up to $15 per ride. To access the program, an Uber user opens the app within the time frame, selects the Safe Ride option, and requests a ride.
Rides must be within the town limits, and some restrictions apply.
New Uber users can sign up and get $20 off their first Uber ride by entering the promo code WaynesWalk. For every new user who takes a first ride, Uber will donate $5 to Wayne’s Walk.
In addition to educational programs, Wayne’s Walk financially supports victims and families.
The organization is named in memory of Wayne Lecardo, a Stratford resident killed by a drunken driver just two days before his 34th birthday.
Powers and Wayne’s Walk President Darin Bershefsky read some sobering statistics at the press conference announcing the partnership.
In 2014, Connecticut saw 97 drunk driving deaths, 39 percent of all traffic fatalities that year. That rate is higher than the U.S. average of 31 percent, and is the fifth highest nationally.
Bershefsky believes the partnership will honor Lecardo’s memory by potentially saving others.
“Nine years later, Wayne’s loss is still incomprehensible to those of us who knew and loved him,” he said.