New program promotes safe transportation from football games

Along the south gates of Autzen Stadium this football season, Safety Ambassadors will engage with University of Oregon students before they enter the stadium. Equipped with games, coupons for free food and giveaway items, the ambassadors strike up conversations with students about the new ride service offered at games and educate them about other campus resources.

The Safety Ambassadors is a group of students that provides rides from Autzen Stadium during football games to students who may be alone, intoxicated or unable to get home safely on their own. The program directors tested it last year and put the program into full effect this football season.

In addition, the Safety Ambassadors promotes other ride options from the game, such as the Lane Transit District buses that are free with a UO student ID.

“The idea of the Safety Ambassador program at football was to provide safe transportation to students from the football game — those who likely are intoxicated or denied entry,” said Ashley Dougherty, UOPD’s Safe Rides programs manager.

The Safety Ambassadors falls under the umbrella of the Safe Rides programs, which includes Safe Ride, Designated Driver Shuttle and Campus Shuttle, all of which are overseen by UOPD.

Unlike Safe Ride and DDS, however, Safety Ambassadors only operates during football games. Student employees spend about an hour before kickoff educating students about their transportation options and accept ride requests until the beginning of the third quarter, Dougherty said. Their tent is located outside the south, student-entry gates.

In a partnership with UO Athletics, the ambassadors also promotes Autzen’s spectator code of conduct and informs fans of new policies in place this football season, especially the no re-entry policy if spectators leave the stadium.

They also hand out freebies, such as flashlights and ID card holders that adhere to the back of phone cases. The ID card holders come with information cards that list phone numbers for campus resources such as the police, Safe Rides programs and the SAFE hotline for sexual assault.

The ambassadors also play games with students to engage with them and keep things fun while also educating, Dougherty said. Students can win coupons for playing a spin-the-wheel game with an ambassador or can sign up for a raffle to win a pair of free Pit Crew shoes, donated by UO Athletics.

“I think one of the best parts of the job is when we’re doing the information session before we start giving rides,” said senior Katie Mendiburu, one of the safety ambassadors. “People get really excited that they’re not going to have to worry about how they’re going to get home.”

While the Safety Ambassadors program aims to make sure everyone has a safe ride home, rides are limited due to heavy traffic in the area and a small, though growing, staff.

In this way, they have the unique task of identifying students who need rides most and informing others about different transportation options.

“To some extent, their job is to really be the eyes and ears there at the site, engage people and connect with the other game services to identify people who might be in need and really kind of focus on the most at-risk students,” said Kelly McIver, spokesperson for UOPD.

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Emily Matlock

Emily Matlock

Emily Matlock is a news reporter for the Daily Emerald. She is a senior studying journalism and Spanish and she's interested in cross-cultural communication. As a native Oregonian, Emily enjoys hiking and exploring Eugene.

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