Nevada City, CA — The Nevada County Sheriff’s Department announced a new pilot program yesterday enlisting members of a local Mormon mission to give free rides to late night bar-goers. The partnership seeks to put an end to decades of tragic fatal alcohol-related incidents along Nevada County roadways, particularly along the Highway 49 corridor.
Members of Nevada City’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints will send specially-outfitted vans to pick up intoxicated patrons and bring them safely home. The service will operate through all county roads and highways.
Nevada City Mormon Elder Josh Dixon, 33, organized the program as a safe way for people to get to their homes without jeopardizing their own lives or somebody else’s if they have been drinking.
“Everyone drinks in Nevada County,” says Dixon. “Except us. We’ve always been someone’s boring sober Mormon friend at parties. So I thought, why can’t I turn this into something constructive?”
The program is just the solution county authorities have been waiting for. “I’m glad to see our community is taking responsibility for what has been a chronic problem,” said a spokesman for the Nevada County Sheriff. “Our department has taken numerous approaches over the years, including heavier police presence on the roads, harsher penalties for DUI offenders, everything within officers’ power to stop drunk driving after they get behind the wheel.”
“But this is a whole other ballgame,” he said. “We don’t even have to do anything.”
Patrons of local bars and restaurants were receptive to the news. Grass Valley resident Janice Smith said, “I’m at Cooper’s four nights a week and every night I worry about how I am going to get home from Nevada City.” Four drinks in, she told Gish Gallop that she can’t afford a nightly 20 dollar cab ride from the bar back to her apartment near Lyman Gilmore Middle School. “But this changes everything. I think I could be there five nights a week now.”
Nevada Club regular Steve Brewer supports the program. “I think their religion is total bullshit,” he said. “But if they want to get my hammered ass home after a long night of Jagerbombs, I’m not complaining.”
The Nevada City Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is volunteering Church vans used during the daytime for field trips and Church business to conduct the operation. Church members staff the dispatch center from 6pm to 4am awaiting calls to pick up customers at local taverns every night of the week. Elder Dixon says the weekday shifts are the most important, because that’s when “it’s harder for people to get a friend or family member to give them a safe and sober ride. Plus there might as well be no public transportation in Nevada County any night of the week anyway.”
Elder Dixon admits that his efforts are as much about faith as they are about safety. “We are looking to make partnerships with people who might be curious about the Mormon faith” he said. “We can’t legally initiate conversation about our spirituality, but we think our community service gives people the chance to ask us questions. Ideally, our presence will draw more people in to join the Church.”
“We just don’t want to have to wait until they are dead to baptize them” he added, laughing.