American Red Cross offers alcohol influenced adolescents rides home

     The legal blood alcohol limit for teenagers is zero, but sometimes teens drink.      And when they do, the American Red Cross wants them to know they offer a free program, called Safe Rides for Teens, that aims to get them home safely.      “We saw a need in the community,” said Lindsay Segersin, marketing and development manager for the non-profit organization of the program it started in October. It’s modeled after a similar program offered by the organization’s Santa Clara County chapter.      “There are not a lot of programs in the county that will come and get teens anonymously,” she added. “We’re non-judgmental. We just ask where they are and where they’re going.”      The service aims to curb drinking and driving trends among teens. Traffic collisions are the No. 1 killer of people ages 15 to 20, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Alcohol use is among the contributing factors in those crashes, the agency said.      Teens who call Safe Rides will be taken home and nowhere else, Segersin said.      Rides are available 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays countywide.      Kris Strunk, 18, is one of the program’s four volunteer drivers.      “The program keeps teens who are afraid to call their parents safe,” said the Aptos High School senior who signed up to be a driver to satisfy community service requirements to graduate.      The program is run by the Red Cross’ youth services program. The drivers are age 18 and up and have all had their backgrounds screened, Segersin said.      Teens staff a call center at the nonprofits office on Soquel Drive.      While the program is staffed by volunteers, which keeps costs low, donations pay for fuel and the upkeep of the vehicles, she said.      So far, one of the largest donations has come from Couch Distributing Company, a 36-year-old Watsonville-based distributor of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to 1,600 bars, restaurants and retail stores countywide.      “I think they are really going in the right direction,” said Louie Pieracci, Couch’s vice president of sales. “We live in the community and we want to give back. To save one life would be worth it.”      Pieracci said the company promotes responsible drinking and opposes teenage alcohol consumption.      “This is a family-run business. We have kids, too,” he said.
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