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COMMUNITY: New Facebook group aims to prevent drunken driving

BEMIDJI--Two years after losing her parents to a drunk driver, one local woman is working to keep intoxicated individuals from getting behind the wheel.

Alicia Collins, who lives between Bemidji and Cass Lake, created the Facebook group “Bemidji Area Designated Drivers 4 You” on July 31 to try to connect potential drunk drivers with a sober ride, and to share information about the issue with the community.

“I’ve been trying to figure out a way to show some initiative, to try and help, try and cut back on the drunk driving, the DUIs, the tragic losses that people have went through because of drunk drivers in this area,” Collins said. “If I can try and get some people in the community together to try and cut back on at least half of the drunk driving violations … it’s at least trying to do something.”

According to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s 2015 Uniform Crime Report, the statewide crime rate for DUIs -- the number of offenses per 100,000 people -- was 388. While the rate of DUIs in Beltrami County was slightly lower at 353, the city of Bemidji rate was significantly higher at 564.

Collins hopes people will use the group to find a designated driver if they have been drinking, or to volunteer to drive others. While Mothers Against Drunk Driving has partnered with Uber to try to keep drunken drivers off the road, she said, few people in the area use the service.

“The thought of the group was … if you’re at a bar, and you’ve had too many drinks and you shouldn’t be driving, for somebody to get on there and say ‘Hey, I’m at this place, I would like to be picked up and be brought home,’” Collins said. “And then the people that want to do the designated driving to get on there and say, ‘OK, I’m available.’”

Collins said she hopes to put safeguards in place to avoid any dangers that could come from riding with strangers. She encourages people to not ride alone, and to use the buddy system. Collins also plans to schedule a meeting where potential drivers can get together and talk about concerns.

“Don’t travel alone, don’t go by yourself,” Collins said. “Do it as a group or something like that.”

None of the group’s 225 members have used the group to request a ride, but Collins hopes that as the word spreads, people with take advantage of the opportunity.

“It feels like something that my parents are telling me to try and do,” Collins said. “At least get out there and try to do something.”

Grace Pastoor

Grace Pastoor covers crime, courts and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. Contact her at (218) 333-9796 or gpastoor@bemidjipioneer.com

(218) 333-9796
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