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On a mission to fight drunk driving

Huntington Beach High student starts HB On Call to provide free rides to intoxicated teens.

June 12, 2013|By Anthony Clark Carpio
  • Huntington Beach High graduate Micayla Vermeeren, 18, at school on Tuesday. Vermeeren started a free ride program where sober drivers, in the Huntington Beach area, volunteer to drive drunk people home for free. This service is available through the Facebook page called HB On Call.
Huntington Beach High graduate Micayla Vermeeren, 18,… (KEVIN CHANG, HB…)

If she couldn't do anything to stop excessive teenage drinking, Micayla Vermeeren wanted to do something to prevent anyone else from getting hurt or dying in a related car accent . And in some cases, from dying.

Spurred by the death of Kelly Morehouse, who died in a traffic incident involving an alleged drunk driver, the 18-year-old senior from Huntington Beach High School took it upon herself to start a free designated-driving service on Facebook called HB On Call.

"I'm not trying to condone any of the behavior that's going on — underage drinking, drug usage, any of that stuff," she said. "But just because I don't condone it doesn't mean I can ignore it. For me and the rest of the community involved with HB On Call, we may not like that it's happening so we might as well do what we can."

The Facebook group has about 180 members; 50 of them volunteer to give car rides to those who are intoxicated, with the rest performing other related duties, Vermeeren said. The majority of the members are high school students from throughout the Huntington Beach Union High School District, she added.

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"We've got at least two volunteers from each school in the district," Vermeeren said. "Even though it started in Huntington Beach High School, it's branched out."

Five students have used the service in the program's week and a half of existence. As a graduating senior herself, Vermeeren is anticipating an influx of calls once school lets out.

She understands the legalities of the matter. Vermeeren makes sure that all the drivers are licensed and have no driving restrictions, she said. For safety, she tells the volunteers it's OK to bring another sober person with them if they're driving multiple people.

"No good deed goes unpunished, even if you are providing a sober ride," she said. "If you get pulled over, it's on you. So we do want to keep our drivers as safe as possible. We have a huge consideration for them as well as the passengers that we're carrying. We're trying to make sure that we cover our bases and stay within the legal parameters."

Huntington Beach Assistant Principal Jason Ross said he was amazed at what Vermeeren started. Tipped off by a staff member, Ross went on Facebook and checked out the group.

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