PARIS - A designated driver program started by a Lamar County couple on the heels of their son’s tragic death is making great strides just four months since its inception.
Dylan’s Drivers provides free rides to Paris citizens of all ages Thursday, Friday and Saturday night in an effort to stop drunk driving. On a given night, ten to 15 people utilize the service.
The program has already attracted dozens of volunteers, who are asked to spend at least one night out of the month answering calls and getting people home safe.
“We have a driver and a navigator. The driver; all he has to do is worry about driving. The navigator; have a conversation with the patron, make sure the driver knows where he’s doing and keeps in contact with headquarters on a constant basis,” explains volunteer Montario Earls.
The phone lines open at 10 p.m. and rides are given until 3 a.m. The number is 903-905-4959. The names of anyone who uses the service are kept confidential.
“It’s some way we can channel some energy to where we’re trying to help the community here; in Paris and Lamar County,” said Ronnie Ballard, co-founder and father of the late Dylan Ballard. “It’s just some way that we can give back to our community and knowing that we are doing something in honor of Dylan.”
Ronnie and his wife, Vicki, have owned and operated Ballard Insurance for nearly 20 years. They’re currently operating Dylan’s Drivers out of a small office located next to their insurance building along 20th Street in Paris. According to Ronnie Ballard, a new building is in the works next to their current office to not only expand the Dylan’s operation but to offer individuals “a safe place to come hang out.”
“It’s a lot of fun. Even though it’s a very serious subject,” Vicki Ballard explains. “We don’t preach to people, we don’t judge people. We just get them in the car and get them home safe. We try to have fun while we’re waiting for the phone to ring.”
The couple has made appearances at area schools to get the word out about the dangers of drinking and driving, most recently speaking at an area mock accident.
On Thursday night, Dylan’s Drivers is teaming with Zone 32, an organization that warns of the dangers of drugs and alcohol, to conduct a community wide parent informational meeting. The event will take place at 6 p.m. from the North Lamar High School Auditorium.
Learn more on Dylan’s Drivers at their facebook page.