Free Graduate Bus Passes To Return In June

OCEAN CITY – Buses may be more crowded during Senior Week this June now that the Mayor and City Council approved re-instating free bus rides to high school graduates with wristbands.

Each year thousands of high school graduates come to Ocean City to celebrate their graduation. The town has decided to sponsor free bus rides for the 2011 high school graduates.

According to Donna Greenwood of the OC Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Committee, the Play It Safe program is designed to encourage high school graduates to make good choices and to have responsible fun in Ocean City without the use of alcohol and drugs.

Last September Greenwood presented the Mayor and City Council with a review of Play It Safe 2010. During that time, she pitched the idea to bring back the wristbands to allow the high school graduates to ride the bus for free.

“Some years ago, we did have many tragedies on our highways. To combat that, we asked the Mayor and City Council that they would consider giving us bus passes to let the kids ride the bus and that has been very successful,” Greenwood said last September. “We had those types of events occur here in Ocean City and we certainly don’t want them. But, since you have allowed giving our participants bus passes there hasn’t been any major tragedy, thank goodness.”

According to the Maryland Parents of Young Drivers website, ages 16-19 have the highest vehicle crash rate. Between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. teen motor vehicle deaths are at their greatest. Vehicle crashes are the greatest cause of death for 15-20 year olds.

“I know that [Ocean City Police] Chief DiPino…supports the Play It Safe project,” Greenwood said this week. “She does support the idea of having the teens on the buses. She knows the problems of inexperienced drivers.”

Greenwood also asserted that there are accidents on Ocean City’s highway and streets that it will create more work for the city employees and the use of the town’s resources.

She also referred to the high school graduates as a benefit to the town.

“Despite the poor economy over the last couple of years…it benefits the town from the room tax, the food tax, and the sales tax. The businesses benefit — hotels, motels, restaurants, all the shopping centers here,” she said, adding the graduates create revenue for the town while most families are unable to travel because kids are still in school.

 “With the Air Show and Car Show here during that time we are going to have a much higher volume of traffic…and do we have some responsibility as a town to protect not just those young people but the rest of us who are here, our residents and our visitors,” Greenwood said.

Greenwood said that every senior week season Play It Safe signs in around 10,000 graduates. Graduates come from across 23 states. In the past, the program has handed out between 5,000 to 6,000 wristbands to ride the bus for free.

Mayor Rick Meehan said the amount of volunteers and the hours they put into the program create a value that far exceeds the cost of allowing the graduates to ride the bus for free.

Council Secretary Lloyd Martin placed a motion to approve Play It Safe 2011 and to re-instate wristbands to allow high school graduates to ride the bus for free. The motion passed in a unanimous vote.

“Years ago before the program, the graduates weren’t quite as well behaved,” Councilman Brent Ashley said. “They became better behaved as your program took hold, it’s a wonderful program and I fully support the wristbands.”