Updated: Monday, 25 Apr 2011, 10:51 AM MDT
Published : Sunday, 24 Apr 2011, 10:20 PM MDT
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Safe Ride, Bernalillo County's program that offers bar hoppers free rides to and from home, will see a $20,000 increase in funding next year, but one of drunk driving's biggest opponents says it's a bad idea.
"I have a big problem with that," said Linda Atkinson with the DWI Resource Center. "The victims we work with and the victims that MADD works with los their jobs, lose their homes. They lose everything and there's no pot of money that helps them."
But Deputy County Manager Tom Swisstack said Safe Ride has been extremely successful. About 6,000 people each year take advantage of the program.
"It's important that the county takes a proactive approach in helping to minimize any type of injury to any citizen," said Swisstack. "The goal here is to minimize accidents and people dying."
Safe Ride is partially funded by money generated from alcohol excise taxes and from court fines paid by DWI offenders in Bernalillo County. Together, the fund totals more than $4 million.
Swisstack said it's up to the county do decide which programs and agencies will get money from the DWI funds. Since 2003, they've allocated about $100,000 a year to Safe Ride. Next year, they'll set aside $120,000, a 20 percent increase.
But Atkinson said Safe Ride caters to people who want to drink excessively. She admits the program may reduce the number of alcohol-related crashes, but she believes the money could be better spent on enforcement and education.
"I'm sure there are plenty of people that like getting a cab, picking them up and taking them to the bar, but is that really a gap? Is that a need?" said Atkinson. "It's almost like we created an industry to help take care of these offenders and the victims be damned. And I think that is so wrong."
Atkinson also said there was no public input in determining which programs and agencies would get funding from the DWI funds. She said she would like to see more transparency in the process.