ALJASSAR: A drunken shuttle no more

The University must find a solution to lack of Foxfield transport

The spring Foxfield races, steeplechase events marked by day drinking and bacchanalian debauchery, are set to occur on April 26. Last year, Albemarle County Police arrested 37 individuals at Foxfield, primarily on public intoxication charges, an indication of the heavy drinking culture surrounding the event. This year, the University Transit Service (UTS) has announced that it will not offer to shuttle students to and from Foxfield due to a dearth of buses at its disposal. “It’s just a matter of available resources,” UTS Director Rebecca White said. “We book buses on a first-come, first-serve basis.” The University must take action to solve this problem of insufficient resources, in order to protect the safety of University students and others.

The most obvious concern in light of the UTS statement is the occurrence of drunk driving: inebriated attendees who elect to drive home will present significant danger to members of the University and Charlottesville communities. Per a 2006 survey of student behavior, approximately 3 percent of University students attending Foxfield drove home after drinking. Assuming the responses of the students sampled are consistent with those of the student population at Foxfield, 240 students drove home after consuming alcohol. If that number hasn’t changed, then there are 240 students each year at Foxfield who drive under the influence and put the lives of others at risk. We can’t afford to increase that number.

Albemarle County Police aims to curb the risks of drunk driving by situating its taxi stand in a more convenient location however, the price tag attached to a cab will surely disincentivize student use of the taxi stand as an alternative. Taxi stands are no replacement for free transportation through bus shuttling, an option that students will be more inclined to accept over driving drunk.

I’ve found that those who aren’t bothered by the lack of UTS shuttles often contend that the responsibility of protecting drunken students at Foxfield does not belong to the University. Rather, they assert, the onus lies with each student who chooses to imbibe alcohol.

The argument falls apart for several reasons. First, the University absolutely bears the responsibility of protecting its students, particularly at events such as Foxfield, which are traditional to the student experience and impact student life to a great extent. Ensuring the safe transportation of students to and from an event host to heavy drinking is as essential as providing services such as Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). The University already offers programs like Safe Ride to help prevent drunk driving during the week; at major events like the Foxfield races, it should provide additional programs. Furthermore, the University has an interest in preserving a positive image, one that will be threatened if a student or other individual is harmed in an accident linked to drunk driving.

Not to mention that this philosophical debate is meaningless given that our chief concern should be protecting as many lives as possible. With Foxfield drawing nearer, the student population is under stress to generate alternative solutions to the approaching problem of drunk driving. As of now, Student Council has reached out to a Raleigh bus company in order to implement a shuttle system similar to that of previous years. Student groups and organizations that plan to attend the races should encourage members to serve as designated drivers by reimbursing the cost of their tickets.

Safety matters, and UTS demonstrated poor vision in failing to reallocate its resources to permit shuttling students to and from Foxfield. If gathering the resources necessary to safely transport students to and from Foxfield is infeasible this year, then UTS must make it a priority to do so next year.

Nazar Aljassar is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at n.aljassar@cavalierdaily.com.


Published April 11, 2014 in Opinion





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