Directorate of Communication and Public Affairs
U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center
After hearing too many stories about Soldiers ruining their careers due to poor decision-making, Spc. Tyler Rouse knew he had to intervene. Nearly a year later, hundreds of Fort Bliss Soldiers have him — as well as his nonprofit organization, No D.U.I. El Paso — to thank for a safe ride home.
Every Friday and Saturday night between 11 p.m. and 2:30 a.m., Rouse and his organization, comprised of unpaid staff members and volunteers, offer a free designated driver service to Soldiers and civilians living in the Fort Bliss-El Paso, Texas, areas. The one stipulation is the service only provides a ride from a drinking establishment to the customer’s home. Drivers will not take customers bar hopping.
Rouse, of Fort Bliss’ 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade, said he started the organization in hopes of mitigating DUIs in the area by giving people another safe option to drinking and driving. For many, though, what makes No D.U.I. El Paso such an attractive option over a taxi service, besides the fact that there’s never a fee, is the volunteer drivers will also transport the customer’s vehicle home.
"It’s very important to both military and civilians that we do transport their vehicle home," Rouse said. "When leaving your vehicle, there’s a risk of burglary and theft. A vehicle is a large investment. Knowing it will be sitting in their driveway or barracks parking lot that next morning encourages them to use the service."
Since the service was first provided in early October 2012, No D.U.I. El Paso has given nearly 1,800 safe rides. Rouse estimates that about 70 percent of customers are Soldiers.
"At Fort Bliss, the division command and garrison command really like our program and what it offers Soldiers," he said. "A lot of the brigade and battalion commands have made it mandatory for their Soldiers to carry our information on them so they have it just in case they get stuck somewhere (and need a sober ride home)."
Still, Rouse doesn’t want people to consider No D.U.I. El Paso as their only "get-home" plan for the evening. The service should be used as backup when a responsible main plan falls through.
Like Rouse, Nonie Rispin, of Colorado Springs, Colo., was concerned about motorists driving under the influence, though her reasons were more personal. Rispin’s cousin was killed by a drunk driver while walking her dog early one morning.
"The driver took out my cousin, her dog, himself and his passenger," Rispin said. "She had a husband and 4- month-old baby at home. I decided I had two choices: I could spend my rest of my life as a victim, or I could do something about it."
Rispin did do something about it, founding the nonprofit Designated Driver of Colorado Springs with her husband, Jason, and son, Robert Ingalls. The service works much like No D.U.I. El Paso, where sober drivers are dispatched on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to transport intoxicated customers and their vehicles home from drinking establishments that sponsor the organization. Personal sponsorships can also be purchased that allow an individual to be picked up at any establishment.
Since January 2009, the organization has provided 15,000 safe rides. Rispin said more than two-thirds of those rides were given to service members.
"The service is available to everyone in our community, military and civilian, but from the first day that I stepped foot onto Fort Carson almost four and a half years ago, I knew it was my job to do everything I possibly could to keep our service members safe," Rispin said. "They are out there protecting my way of life, all the things that I care about and the people that I love. I want to keep them safe when they are out unwinding and having a little bit of fun."
Service members aren’t only the most frequent users of Rispin’s service; they also make up the great majority of the organization’s volunteers. Of the 850 people who have volunteered their time to the organization, Rispin said 95 percent have been active-duty service members, with most being Soldiers from Fort Carson.
"I have had many Soldiers get their Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal for the time they spend with us," Rispin said. "If it wasn't for our awesome volunteers who come out every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, all the talking I do wouldn't make any difference at all. It is the volunteers who make this happen."
In time, both Rouse and Rispin hope to expand their programs to other locations.
"At Fort Bliss, we’ve seen a 26 percent decrease in the total number of DWIs when compared to 2012," Rouse said. "That’s really motivated our staff, board of directors and chains of command. We’ve had other installations, battalion commanders, brigade commanders asking for us to expand."
Rispin is dreaming even bigger. She wants her organization to one day be recognized as "the best option for those who want to make the right choice."
"It has always been my goal to one day get us to a point where we can take our program nationwide," Rispin said. "… We are always working on funding that will help us get to the point where we can be available in every community and to every military service member out there."
For more information on No DUI El Paso, visit the organization’s website at http://www.noduielpaso.com. Additional details about Designated Driver of Colorado Springs, including a list of which establishments sponsor the service, can be found at http://www.DDofCS.org.