Kelly Dutz is one of the founders of the non-profit Don’t Drink and Drive Society.

Kelly Dutz is one of the founders of the non-profit Don’t Drink and Drive Society.

Safe rides now year-round

New Maple Ridge society offers free rides homes to prevent drinking and driving.

A volunteer group has formed to transport drunk drivers in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows home safely.

Jose Arturo Zacaria Mendoza is a cab driver and, along with Kelly Dutz, one of the founders of the non-profit Don’t Drink and Drive Society.

His group started offering rides by donation in December, and has given between 10 and 15 rides on each of Friday and Saturday nights.

Mendoza said the society is intended to be a last resort, only for those who have tried unsuccessfully to get a ride from a friend or cab.

“We are all volunteers, trying to help that big problem we have not only in this community, but the whole country, which is tragedies caused by drinking and driving,” said Mendoza.

He was at Pitt Meadows council last week, asking for the city’s support of the initiative, and also met with staff from Maple Ridge.

“If you have the backup of the city, the public will have more faith in it,” he said.

When Mendoza was a child growing up in Mexico, his brother was hit by a drunk driver. The five-year-old had been holding his mother’s hand as the two walked.

“My brother got killed, right before my mother’s eyes,” he said. “I’m a direct victim of it [impaired driving].”

He drives a taxi and sees impaired drivers when he stops at bars to pick up his more responsible fares.

“As a taxi driver and limousine driver, it really hits me. It hurts me when I see people stumbling, and then get in their cars and drive away.”

There are about 55 members of the new society.

Some are volunteer drivers, whom he calls “angels of the safe roads,” and some only use the service.

A majority of the members have been caught driving while under the influence, and faced driving prohibitions and vehicle impounding.

Mendoza said the group charges no fees or dues, but does accept donations when the service is used.

He said donations should be less than what the user would pay for a taxi, and are completely optional – he doesn’t want people to drive drunk because they don’t have any money left for a ride.

Mendoza said cab companies have not complained about the service, and he doesn’t expect them to – because when the bars are closing on a weekend night, the demand for taxis overwhelms them.

“We want to be the last option, before people grab the wheel,” he said.

• Anyone interested in joining the society or accessing the service can call 778-242-7037.