Tragedy struck Nicole Candeleria’s family in 1993.
“My little brother, Cal Ray Candeleria, was killed by a drunk driver in 1993,” Candeleria said.
For Candeleria, co-owner of A-1 Recovery & Towing (along with business partner Shane Swett), that was the worst thing that ever happened. In the aftermath of that tragedy she wanted to ensure that no one else had to go through what she and her family went through. Hence the “A-1 Safe Ride” program which, for the past 22 (and now to be 23) years has been run in memory of Cal Ray Candeleria.
Safe Ride also honors the memory of her late father-in-law, Nicholas Swett, who was a huge supporter of the program. He would often bring cookies, coffee, and other needed refreshments for their drivers and dispatch volunteers to sustain them through the late nights and early mornings.
ABOUT A-1 SAFE RIDE SAFE TOW
It isn’t only about her brother’s death. The Wyoming Department of Transportation reports that, over the past five years, Wyoming had an average of 41 alcohol impaired driving fatalities per year. Compared to the national average, Wyoming has an overall higher rate of alcohol impaired driving accidents and fatalities. To both Candeleria and Swett, these statistics are unacceptable.
Thus both Candeleria and Swett have teamed up to provide free rides and towing services to the Laramie community during the New Year’s Eve holiday.
HOW IT WORKS
A-1 Safe Ride Safe Tow is a free service. It is also judgment-free. It offers to pick people up from their homes, take them wherever they want to be, and then drive them back to their doorstep. They have a variety of vehicles to shuttle small and large parties. The benefit of having many drivers is pronounced in the bitterly cold Laramie winters. Passengers typically wait no more than 10 minutes for their rides to arrive.
About 10-15 drivers participate in the program each year. A-1 provides the gas money, but the drivers volunteer their time. The Laramie GM Auto Center, Cowboy Glass, and law enforcement agencies play a large part each year by providing the manpower to drive and run the temporary dispatch center they create for the occasion.
Safe Ride also will send a tow truck driver to take a person and car home If someone has driven to a location and has had a few drinks,.
Candeleria also stressed that the rides are cost-free and judgment-free, and so they are available to provide rides to anyone in need. They just want to have as few cars on the road as possible.
Candeleria also noted that they wanted to be flexible during the times of COVID-19. The event fliers advertise that they will operate between the hours of 5 p.m. – 3 a.m., but she wanted the public to know that they are willing to start as early as necessary on New Year’s Eve to get people around town safely.
“If someone is going to work at a bar at 11 a.m., and needs a ride because they might hang out and drink after their shift, they can call us that morning to get a ride to work,” she said. She added that the main goal is to reduce the risk for the community. They are willing to be flexible to make it happen.
“Each year, our goal is have zero DUIs in Laramie,” Calenderia said. Of the 22 years this program has operated, they have met that goal two times.
SLOW GOING INITIALLY
Candeleria’s business partner, Shane Swett, said that he was eager to start a program like this back in the 1990s when he started his own towing service in Laramie.
“The first year we did this, I think we only had one person call us,” Swett said. By year four, word had gotten around the community and the program took off. The University of Wyoming’s Safe Rides program is paused during the holiday break, and so that left a big gap in judgment-free, no-cost ride services throughout the city during the holiday season.
The program has grown exponentially over the years, and Swett noted that it’s due to an incredible, coordinated community effort.
Law enforcement agencies are also grateful for the A-1 Safe Rides Safe Tow program.
“We think it is very community-minded of A-1 Recovery & Towing to have this program, and it helps keep people safer and out of trouble,” said Laramie Police Chief Steven Morgan.
Morgan emphasized that people are encouraged to call A-1, have a designated sober driver, or use a taxi service — anything to prevent them from getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol.
CELEBRATE NEW YEAR’S IN A SAFE MANNER
To access the free safe ride service from A-1 Recovery & Towing on New Year’s Eve into New Year’s Day morning, call 3070-760-1213.