July 3 marked the launch of the new PGA DUI program. And while it has nothing to do with golf… it has everything to do with saving lives.
By Tracy Dietlin
PGA DUI stands for Parents & Guardians Against Driving Under the Influence and their tagline is Prevention is Better than Punishment. This program is the brainchild of Dr. Suresh Shah who placed 1 million dollars of his own money in a Charles Schwab bank account through his Shah Family Foundation for Health and Education to start and fund this amazing program that offers free rides home from bars and restaurants when the patrons are too drunk to drive home. “Many people cannot afford to take a taxi to and from a restaurant or bar so they drive and want to enjoy a few drinks and especially with the young adults…before they know it they are too intoxicated to drive home but get behind the wheel anyway,” says Dr. Shah. “We want to help cut down on the number of people being arrested for DUIs. It is very expensive when someone gets arrested for a DUI and it can seriously affect the rest of their life and their careers.”
Shah said that by providing this free service it will reduce the DUI rate and save lives from people driving while under the influence. “Drinking alcohol is legal but driving while drinking is not. Until now people didn’t have the ability to get a free ride home and not take that chance. And when we pick them up we give them a brochure that explains what can happen if they get a DUI so they are more informed.”
Shah insists that all rides are free of charge and that the drivers are not even allowed to take any tips at all. At this time the program is available in the cities of Palm Desert, Indian Wells and Rancho Mirage. So if you are at a bar or restaurant in one of these cities and you’ve had too much to drink you can call them and they will come and pick you up and drive you home anywhere in the valley even if you live in Coachella or DHS. You will leave your car at the location and pick it up the next day. He also states that if you already took a taxi to the establishment they won’t pick you up and that this service is for those who drove their car. “This is for the local residents of the Coachella Valley and not for people that are staying at hotels.”
Shah says that while this is an expensive endeavor, he has enough money in the account to fund the program for about 6 months to a year. From that account he has purchased four, orange Toyota Prius’ to provide the service and he is paying all of the drivers, gas, dispatch and marketing from the account as well. He is looking forward to expanding the service on November 1 to other desert cities from Palm Springs to Indio. He has already ordered 12 more cars to be prepared for the holidays and the upcoming season.
“I look forward to seeing what the numbers are when we compare last year’s DUI arrests to this year’s with having this program in effect,” says Shah. “We are working with the police to gather all the data.” When I spoke with Eileen Dryden, COO of Shah Management, she told me that they gave approximately 120 rides over the four day weekend from July 3-6. That is quite remarkable as they just implemented the program. Those were people that did not get behind the wheel drunk and risk other people’s lives or their own all because one amazing and generous man had a vision.
Shah has been in the Coachella Valley for 32 years and was an anesthesiologist and is now a developer and has built many shopping centers. “I have made a lot of money in this valley and I feel it is only right to give back to the community. I feel very strongly about helping the young adults to not make a mistake that can stay with them for the rest of their lives.”
We at CV Weekly are so impressed with what Dr. Shah is doing that we will be featuring him as one of our Top 25 Men in the CV in our July 24th issue. There is much more to share about his many charitable contributions and we want to let the valley know.
PGA DUI is currently available Thursdays through Sundays from 6:00pm until 2:00am. Do not drive under the influence when you can call 760-340-1500 and get a FREE ride home.
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