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New ride-share tool at UMass aims to keep drunken drivers off the road

AMHERST — A new ride-share cellphone app at the University of Massachusetts is being touted as a healthy alternative that will keep intoxicated drivers off the roadways.

Sobrio, the new ride share application for smartphones used by UMass students, was given a sort of test drive in the fall.

“An app like Sobrio is another tool available so there are many fewer impaired people behind the wheel who could harm themselves and others,” said Town Manger John Musante. “This is a more organized version of the designated driver.”

Lindsay Vitale, Student Government Association’s secretary of finance, said the program gave 350 to 500 rides per weekend in the fall.

According to Vitale, all drivers are UMass students who must provide their names, emails, phone numbers and student identifications. A background check is then done by Sobrio and student leaders check with insurance companies to ensure that the vehicles the students drive have proper insurance, and that the students themselves have good driving records.

UMass had 23 drivers last semester, and Vitale expects more will join the program this spring, with students making between $50 and $120 a night, depending on how many fellow students they pick up and the agreed-upon charge.

“Our biggest compliment from our users is that the service is fairly priced, reliable and that they feel safer riding with UMass students rather than random cab drivers,” Vitale said.

The new Sobrio program comes as the number of taxicabs in town has decreased. As of Jan. 1, there were 23 licensed cabs in Amherst, compared to 27 a year ago and 61 licensed in 2012.

The SGA tested Sobrio last semester and intends to expand its use this spring. The program has students log into the app, ask for a ride, and then make arrangements with a driver to be picked up.

UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski said the UMass administration supports Sobrio because it is another tool that allows students to make good judgments.

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