Petty officer Michael Daigle of the US Navy has rolled out an app to curb drunken driving in the Navy ranks. His Saferide ride-sharing service runs on Voxox's Cloud Phone service which costs just $15 a month and is popular among US Service members abroad, where mobile phones are not permitted for use by active duty sailors.
The app is especially useful for sailors stationed abroad in countries like South Korea and Japan where US Navy presence is strong. Drunken driving in the Navy has traditionally been a problem and often results in sailors being dismissed from the service.
“We end up losing a lot of sailors,” said Daigle.
Just this month, a US sailor and civilian worker were arrested on base in Okinawa, Japan following a crash. This comes amid tensions with Japanese officials over a former marine raping and killing an Okinawan woman. The problem became so pervasive that U.S. Naval Forces banned off base drinking at Okinawa on June 6th, but the ban was lifted on Tuesday noting “the performance of sailors across Japan has been outstanding.” Daigle claims there have been five or six instances and arrests at his base alone over the last year, but since the introduction of Saferide: none.
Daigle's uses the app tap into the age-old camaraderie and support between service members. The app works like a hotline, and a single call, placed via WiFi, connects an intoxicated sailor to sober colleagues who have volunteered to be on “standby”. The system can connect with up to ten sober drivers with just one call. Daigle originally experimented with the service connecting to outside taxi services, but he found it being abused for airport rides and other reasons not congruent with his vision of getting service members home safe after a night on the town.
Ron Kinkade, vice president of marketing and strategy at Voxox said Daigle was not a typical customer, as he usually deals with small businesses, online sellers, and consultants looking to connect employees remotely.
“The Navy has discussed it on a higher level about potentially in the long run considering implementing it Navy-wide, based on its success,” he said.
By Thomas Dougherty