Free RTC Rides to Prevent Drunk Driving

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RENO (KOLO) -- It's an opportunity for people to take the bus for free, instead of getting behind the wheel when they've had too much to drink. Each St. Patrick's Day 2-ride RTC passes are handed out, in part, thanks to the Northern Nevada DUI Task Force. For the chairman of the task force, drunk driving is an issue that hits close to home.

"It was just a great tragedy that there was a drinking driver on the road that afternoon, and DJ was stopped in traffic, the drinking driver didn't, he crashed into him, and DJ died at the scene," Jim Holmes said.

It happened the day after Bishop Manogue senior DJ Benardis was accepted to Notre Dame. His father, Jim Holmes, says the young football player was on track to be valedictorian. Instead, driving his Jeep home one day, a drunk driver would take him away forever.

Now Jim is the chairman of the Northern Nevada DUI task force, helping keep the streets safe -- But what he's seeing isn't encouraging.

"DUI offenders coming to the victim impact panel has gone up by a factor of 17, from 20 a month in 1990 to 350 a month now," Holmes said.

But Jim is hoping cards for free free rides on RTC will make a difference. People could request the passes by mail, and 14 bars gave them away on Saint Patrick's Day. The 2-ride passes are good through Wednesday the 19th.

Jim knows all too well that it takes only one irresponsible driver to take a loved-one away forever. He says DJ's number, seven, is retired at Bishop Manogue. His family says the man who took DJ's life spent about a year in jail -- DJ's years ended at 18.

"This boy was robbed of 60 or so years of his life," Holmes said. "When they're drinking and they put that foot on the accelerator they have just turned into a weapon."