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Delaware Designated Drivers' mission is to reduce the number of impaired drivers and related fatalities and injuries on Delaware roadways, as well as to educate the public against the dangers of impaired driving and to promote responsibility.

The News Journal


New service offers free rides home:

By CHRISTOPHER YASIEJKO / For close to 10 years as a part-time limousine driver, Alan Ladd saw first-hand how widespread driving under the influence of alcohol was. As bars emptied Friday and Saturday nights, he saw a steady steam of impaired drivers get behind the wheel. He attributed the dangerous behavior to a lack of both planning and convenient alternatives for a ride home. But his goal was not to find an explanation; Ladd wanted to provide a solution.  

His vision would entail a nonprofit service in which a volunteer would arrive at a bar and, at no charge, drive the drunken beneficiary home in his or her own vehicle. Another volunteer would follow in a separate car and, once the inebriated patron was safely home, return with his or her partner. The service, funded partially by the Delaware Office of Highway Safety, is being modeled after a similar program in Sacramento, Calif. 

Ladd researched programs in Las Vegas, Sacramento, and Orange County, Calif. He learned that some charged a fee; some served only the establishments that supported the program.  On Nov. 19, Delaware Designated Drivers, the product of Ladd's cooperative efforts with two co-founding directors, began serving the Newark area on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. He and more than 60 volunteer drivers helped spread the word by distributing pamphlets, business cards and keychain tags with telephone numbers. 

Several dozen have used the service.  But the program can't survive on goodwill alone, and its future depends on the community's trust and help.  "The program is so new," says Ladd, 40, a U.S. Postal Service veteran of more than 20 years, "that some people think there must be some kind of catch."

The pool of volunteers, which Ladd hopes will reach 125, is growing. But most bars and restaurants he's approached have been slow to display DDD's literature.

The East End Cafe, on Main Street, made the organization's fliers and business cards available to patrons around the second week of December.  Within the first couple of weeks, says owner Rich Katz, patrons had used the new service about 10 times.  "We didn't even know," Katz says, "because the bars don't have to be notified."  Neither do the police, which Ladd hopes will encourage underage drinkers to call DDD without fear of arrest.  All the service requests is a first name and an address for pickup.

Volunteers consist largely of University of Delaware students.  Tyler Somers, a 19-year-old sophomore, first served on a Friday night early this month. "On duty means we have our cell phones, and we sit around for four hours," Somers said. "We had sat around for three hours when we got a call from three guys who were outside the Deer Park."  Somers and a colleague drove to the tavern. Somers drove the men's vehicle to an apartment 10 minutes away while the other volunteer followed.  "They were loud, and some of the time they were obnoxious," Somers says, "but it was cool because I got to build a relationship with the main guy who wasn't as intoxicated."

Newark Mayor Vance Funk says he's impressed with the program. "Any time we can get drunk drivers off the road," he says, "I think it's an incredible, good deal for the public."

Contact Christopher Yasiejko at 324-2778 or

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University of Delaware Hotel Management Program:

"Our Students get it, and feel a social responsibility to assist those who want to be responsible on our roads."


Wilmington High School Class of 1979 Reunion Committee:

"We found Delaware Designated Drivers to meet and exceed our expectations. When asked to arrive for an unexpected  pickup, DDD proved why it is a professional organization."