Three weeks after its debut as Maryland's first anti-drunken driving campaign run by students, Safe Rides for Teens has stalled, virtually unused by Anne Arundel teen-agers and hampered by winter weather.
Aimed at the county's many teen-agers and modeled on a Connecticut program that drew nationwide attention, Safe Rides has raised more than $1,000 in private donations and drawn the praise of politicians across the state; it will soon receive a new car from a group of Annapolis automobile dealers.
Organized last November, Safe Rides has attracted 47 youths who handle late-night telephone requests for their service: free, twice-weekly trips home for any teen-ager too drunk to drive.
But when Safe Rides organizers officially launched the program three Fridays ago, they received only one crank telephone call.
One genuine call came the next Friday. Then Safe Rides was snowed out last Friday and Saturday nights. The heavy snow also cancelled the Friday fund-raising dance that the teen-agers hoped would give them badly needed publicity.
Pat Smith, an adult adviser to Safe Rides, said some members have been demoralized by the lack of interest in the campaign, but predicted milder weather will generate more requests for the program.
"We're not going away," said Smith, whose son is a Safe Rides member. "But we do hope, and expect, that interest picks up."
Meanwhile, the narrow roads in the rural communities of southern Anne Arundel County have been virtually free of accidents involving youthful drunken drivers, Smith said. One teen-ager who was in a single-car accident during the Christmas season escaped from the vehicle just before its gas tank caught fire, Smith said.
Shaken by the incident--apparently he had been drinking--the teen-ager promptly joined Safe Rides, said Smith, a Davidsonville resident.
Safe Rides has room for 13 more members, who must take defensive driving and first aid courses and join the Boy Scout Explorers post with which the group is now affiliated. Safe Rides is scheduled to operate from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Ron Hendrick, president of New Car Dealers of Annapolis, said the association's 13 member dealerships will donate a used, four-door sedan to Safe Rides by the end of this month.
"We felt it was a worthwhile project since the kids were running it," Hendrick said this week. The car will be equipped with standard safety features, including seat belts.
To call Safe Rides in the Washington area on Friday and Saturday nights, dial 261-7399; in the Baltimore area, 269-0586.