R.I.D.E. service for Eugene: 'That's why I'm driving and not you'

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EUGENE, Ore. - Jonathan Russell said he learned about the dangers of alcohol at a young age. Even as a boy he could see his father's drinking was out of his control.

"He knew it was going to kill him, continuing to drink," Russell said. "I remember him crying and telling me that he's sorry that he scared me as he reached for another bottle."

His dad, Joe, used to drink and drive - sometimes while Jonathan was riding in the back seat.

Now with a child of his own, Jonathan said his dad's past actions prompted him to start a service that takes Eugene's would-be drunk drivers home in their own car.

"I didn't want other parents endangering other children... that's why I'm driving and not you," he said. "We've got our business line and then our scheduling line."

Jonathan started the non-profit Rides for Intoxicated Drivers of Eugene (or RIDE for short) with his girlfriend, Casondra.

"We work in a team of two, where we have a chase driver and a chauffeur. So when somebody calls for a pick up we will drive out. The chase driver drops the chauffeur off at the bar," said Russell.

The R.I.D.E. service lets people like Brittany find a safe way home, even if they've found themselves one or two drinks over the legal limit.

"When I would go out it would either be a friend giving me a ride home, and I would have to go pick up my car the next day, or take a cab. Or I would take the chance and drive home," said Brittany.

National statistics say the average drunk driver is estimated to drive drunk 80 times before their first arrest. There were 751 DUII arrests in Eugene in 2012, up almost 17 percent from 2011.

Jonathan hopes to help curb those numbers by offering up the R.I.D.E. service from 10 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. every Friday and Saturday night.

While R.I.D.E. hopes to eventually offer up a free service, they are asking for a donation for downtown drop-offs.

"I don't care about making money, all I care about is making sure their parents wake up the next morning."

Eventually Jonathan did lose his father to alcohol. While it's unfortunate that it's only in memory, he said his dad is still going along for this ride.

Rides for Intoxicated Drivers of Eugene is accessible by phone at (541) 255-8148, and can also be found on Facebook or Twitter.