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Sober Driver volunteers save lives and licences

Regional News

The Sober Driver Program in the Mid North community of Georgetown has helped locals resist the temptation to drive home under the influence.

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Farmer Gunga Koch said he knew something needed to change when he was driving home from the Georgetown pub after having four or five mid strengths and saw the flashing lights behind him.

“After I blew through the breathalyzer the police officer said to me ‘it’s your lucky night.’ It felt like a scene from a movie,” he said.

Since that night three years ago, Koch has joined other locals such as Mark Crawford to develop a program that provides Georgetown and surrounding communities with the opportunity to socialise on a Friday night, without the worry of having one too many.

It’s a simple idea, townspeople volunteer to drive people home from the pub, but it has had a huge impact on the town and its surrounds.

According to South Australian Police statistics, South Australians living outside of major cities are six times more likely to be killed in a fatal car accident than their urban counterparts.

Georgetown has the only pub in the area and since there isn’t the option of catching an Uber home, getting home safely isn’t as easy as it is in the city.

“Growing up in Georgetown the pub has become a social outlet for me and others, especially if you’ve had a bad day and need to whinge about the weather over a couple beers,” Crawford said.

Now boasting 22 volunteer drivers, Crawford says it’s as simple as issuing a five-month roster for the weekly sober driver, which usually involves pick-ups and drop-offs between the hours of 6:30 and 10:30pm. However, it does often end up finishing later for people living in the 20–30-kilometre radius.

“I think so many people volunteer because that way you don’t feel so guilty when you’re the one being dropped home,” Gunga Koch said

Since the beginning of the initiative, locals have noticed less police cars patrolling the area at night as they are aware of the program and aren’t as worried about people making reckless decisions that could cost them their license or a life.

The Sober Driver Program of Georgetown has been operating for three years and received the Harley Toole Community Road Safety Award in 2017 for its role in preventing the temptation to drive home under the influence.

“It’s not an onerous task to do a roster, send out a text message and volunteer every 20 weeks. Other rural communities with people willing to volunteer could easily replicate the system,” Crawford said.

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