Sobrio brings safety to UMass nightlife

By Katrina Borofski

Courtesy of Jason Howie/Flickr

Every weekend, students attend parties and go to bars in downtown Amherst, and then are forced to either wait in the cold for a bus or pay for an expensive taxi. A new smartphone app, however, has a different solution.

The University of Massachusetts is one of seven schools across the nation that has introduced Sobrio, the self-proclaimed “Designated Driving App.” Since the beginning of its launch tour in August, Sobrio has been devoted to providing a safe alternative to drinking under the influence at and around campuses throughout America.

According to its mission on its blog, Sobrio is looking to “simplify the designated driving experience for both those who need safe rides and designated drivers. Sobrio aims to take a community-based approach to help people within their university or organization create a collaborative network of ride sharing.”

Initially implemented last September at the University of Connecticut while the inventors were students there, Sobrio has expanded its range through its nationwide tour, traveling across a number of campuses to share its program. UMass adopted the Sobrio program and is seeing great results.

The Sobrio App can help maintain the safety of many students on campus.  Samya Stumo, an Anthropology and Spanish major at UMass, signed up to be a driver and believes that the process of using the app is relatively easy.

“You first have to make an account,” she said. “When you need to use it, the app asks you where you are, where you want to go, the number of passengers and what time you would like to be picked up.”

The information entered is then sent in a notification to the drivers in the area.  Potential drivers respond to these notifications, either confirming they can pick up the passengers or not. The driver must also respond to the request by proposing a charge, such as $3 a ride per person. The people seeking rides can accept or reject the offer based on when the driver offers the ride and how much the driver is charging.

“Once they accept, I go pick them up. I have the ability to call or message them through the app if anything happens,” Stumo said.

Twelve percent of the profits made from ride sharing go directly to Sobrio. The rest of the money earned goes to an account that is stored in Sobrio, but is transferrable to the accounts of the drivers who earned the money.

On the Sobrio profiles, drivers can rate passengers and vice versa.

“They can see my profile and I can see theirs. I can see the people that are ‘no shows’ and respond to requests accordingly,” Stumo said.

“I think there should never be a reason that people drive while intoxicated,” Stumo added. She also noted the importance of this issue that Sobrio intends to solve.

Added Stumo: “I think it’s kind of fun. I’ve had so many great conversations with students I’ve picked up that it’s become a truly fun way to spend a weekend night.”

Passengers alike also enjoy Sobrio. Even underclassmen like freshman psychology major Hannah Burbidge appreciate Sobrio for its purposes on a large campus like UMass.

“I haven’t used Sobrio yet, but it’s nice knowing that when I am old enough to drink or at any point when I need a ride home late at night on the weekends, there’s a program on campus looking to make that happen,” she said.

Members of Sobrio are also looking to turn this successful program on campus into an official Registered Student Organization.

Katrina Borofski can be reached at [email protected]