Driving the Drunken Student
Date parties better known as "puke runs"
by Josie Schneider
Mark Reddock, a Getaway driver since 2000, says U-M Greek groups often charter buses to take members to drinking parties as far afield as Comerica Park in Detroit and Clutch Cargo's in Pontiac. Getaway gets fifteen to twenty such calls a year, with demand rising in the fall, before the holidays, and near the end of the school year.
Three or four buses are the norm for each event, says Reddock--and Getaway has learned the hard way to require a $200 "puke deposit" to cover the extra cleaning required when drunken passengers vomit on the bus. Reddock estimates that half the time the deposit is forfeited.
Students usually aren't ready at the scheduled pickup time because they're already partying, Reddock says, and they are "drunk before they get on the bus." Once at their destination, "they take over the whole place--party all night." The buses leave the area immediately. "We drivers go where they can't find us because sometimes they get kicked out and want to hang out on the bus," Reddock explains. "We don't want to have to deal with them until it's time to take them home."
It's no secret that many U-M students drink heavily. The U-M Substance Abuse Research Center found that nearly half of the students responding to surveys since 1999 admitted to binge drinking. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website, 1,825 college students die each year from alcohol-related injuries; 599,000 students between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four are injured while under the influence of alcohol; and more than 690,000 students are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.
In February, the U-M Interfraternity Council banned hard liquor from most large Greek "open parties." "Everyone is reacting favorably," says new IFC president Tommy Wydra, who championed the "Social Responsibility Policy." Asked if a specific incident prompted the move, Wydra says, "Nothing terrible has happened yet. We don't want to make it a reaction to something like that. We
want to get out in front of the ball and be very proactive about it."
Mary Jo Desprez, director of Wolverine Wellness, an on-campus center providing, among many other services, alcohol abuse counseling, applauds Wydra, calling him a brave student. When it's pointed out that a similar ruling three years ago brought about little change, she responds that brave actions can chip away at problems.
The IFC rule does not apply to on-campus parties during football game weekends--nor to off-campus puke runs. Mark Reddock says that the trips are mostly assigned to new hires or young drivers. "I was nineteen when I started--I could relate to the kids then," he says. "But I've got two kids now, and I can do without this!"
[Originally published in April, 2014.]