A copy of this article first appeared in the Times Beacon Record newspaper. This reprint is used with permission.
When Bobbi Anne DePierro got a 3:30 a.m. call from a state trooper that her 21-year-old daughter was driving under the influence and had lost control of her car getting off the Sunken Meadow Parkway, everything stopped. Her daughter’s car went into a tree and she was in a coma. She lost her bodily functions and was in the hospital and rehab for months before she completely recovered.
That was six years ago. Since then, DePierro and her husband, Dominic, opened TLC Transmissions and Affordable Auto Care in Setauket in January 2013 and that summer, a representative from a program called Student Lifeline stopped in her store. The rest is history.
Student Lifeline is a free program that provides cards with a hotline number for participating cab companies on Long Island that will provide free rides home for teens who want to avoid drunk driving or victims of domestic violence in need of a shelter. Sponsors like DePierro cover the costs of the cab rides.
“We wanted to make them aware that if they’re out, not to drink and drive,” DePierro said of the decision to sponsor the Student Lifeline program. She estimates that her business has distributed a few hundred cards since they got involved last summer.
Student Lifeline has been around since 1988 and distributes 1.2 million cards to students throughout the United States.
“What we’re asking [students] to do is to not get into a vehicle with someone who is drunk,” Richard Signarino, the director of Student Lifeline, said. “To call a cab ride to avoid what would be a dangerous situation for them.”
The cards are available at sponsors’ businesses, some youth bureaus, supermarkets and in high school guidance counselor offices.
When students or victims of domestic violence call the Student Lifeline hotline, the operator contacts a nearby cab service and the person is in a taxi within 15 to 30 minutes.
Sponsorship is not limited to smaller stores like TLC Transmissions and Affordable Auto Care. The King Kullen grocery chain has been backing Student Lifeline for almost 20 years.
“As a Long Island company, we share a strong bond with the communities we serve,” Joseph W. Brown, senior vice president of King Kullen, said, “Promoting Student Lifeline makes a real difference in the fight against drunk driving and other unsafe situations.”
Sponsors like King Kullen and TLC Transmissions and Affordable Auto Care have ads on the Student Lifeline cards, which go to the people who need rides. The program is normally targeted toward students, victims of domestic violence and people whose vehicles break down on the highway, but can also reach others, such as elderly people who need a lift after an outpatient medical procedure.
As for DePierro, she will continue handing out Student Lifeline cards to prevent accidents like her daughter’s.
“We care about the kids in our community and we want them to be safe,” she said.