Robert Ybarra Interview
(Fathers Against Drunk Driving)
Robert Ybarra has dedicated his life to stopping people from driving drunk.
He is the founder of the organization Fathers Against Drunk Driving.
Q – Robert, are you the guy who put Fathers Against Drunk Driving together?
A – Yes I am the founder.
Q - Did you experience some kind of personal tragedy involving drunk driving? Is that what motivated you?
A – Yes. My neighbors that I grew up with, ever since elementary school, to make a long story short, the girls went to a party. It was a backyard party with a keg. To try and make it is less dramatic as possible; we went over there to see how they were doing. It was one of my best friends that I grew up with. We all lived in the same community. As we approached the party, we were on a certain street to get into that little community where the party was at and we saw all kinds of paramedic’s and fire engines and police. As we got closer, we saw her Volkswagen it hit a telephone pole. She never made it home. She died right there on impact. Her friend that was with her died a few hours later in the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital. So that’s what led me to providing Sober Rides to the people in my community.
Q - How old were the girls?
A - Early 20s.
Q - What year was that crash?
A - 1985.
Q - When did you start F. A. D. D.?
A- I started providing a Safe and Sober Ride, I didn’t even have the name then, from 85 to 87. I made flyers. I would pick up my friends take them home. Then in 1987, that name Fathers Against Drunk Driving came in, from Los Angeles.
Q- Prior to 1985, had you given much thought to the whole D. W. I. Issue?
A - No. I didn`t even think it was relevant until it hit home. I never thought twice about it.
Q - Provide a Ride continues today?
A - Yes we have a F.A.D.D van here in the Central Valley of California. I’m into every county. I pick people up when they call me; it’s on Friday and Saturday night. Sometimes they contract the van and out. I’ll pick up like 5 or 7 people, but most of the time I’ll pick up one or two or three individuals at a local bar or a pub or a restaurant that serves beer or a sports bar.
Q - What do you charge people for that service $50 or $100?
A - No. That works on donations and sponsorships. The people in the community fund Provide A Ride. They fund all of our programs throughout the year. Business owners.
Q - What city would that be?
A - Were talking about Visalia California.
Q - In Syracuse New York they had a similar program called “I’m smart”. They had a decal that was posted at local bars. If you felt you had one too many, two people would show up when you called them. One would drive you home and the other person would drive your car back to your residence. I don’t know what they charged for that service, but it was probably cheaper than a D. W. I. Robert “I’m smart” went out of business. I don’t understand why a service like that would go under. Do you?
A - Well the first thing that came to my heart is it’s the dedication of the people who are running were coordinating the program. If they’re in it for the wrong reason, such as to make a quick buck and get out then it’s not going to last. If they’re in it with their heart to protect the people and to make the people and to make the people in the community safe, then you have more than an 80% chance to be successful and to have it ongoing. So that’s what our core is with the people in the community. We reach out to them and were always raising awareness all year round with educational prevention and awareness materials. This is for the people in the community and that’s how it has grown. A few years ago we only had three chapters. A couple years later there were a couple more people that came in and last year a couple more people came in. This year (2013) a couple more people came in. Right now we have 12 chapters different parts of the country. The dedication of the people that are involved is what keeps it going we have to have the right mindset and the right goals and plus in order for the program not to fizzle out and be a fad.
Q - In New York State there is zero tolerance for drinking and driving. That means if you’re driving down the road and you stop into a bar for a drink, and get back into your vehicle, you can be pulled over for D. W. I. All of the public service announcements warning people of this haven’t made much of an impact. Is it going to come to a point where alcohol cannot be served in a bar anymore? Will we only have Milk bars, Soda bars, Tea bars, Coffee bars?
A - Well, I’ve had the experience of dealing with the public, one-on-one and in groups and going door to door, business to business, doing interviews for middle schools, having kids interviewing me. They say to me, we cannot make these people stop drinking. We cannot twist there are and say, hey don’t go into a bar you’re going to get drunk. You’re going to either kill yourself kill somebody or ruin your reputation by going to jail. So we can’t force them to quit. So the next best thing is to help them prevent and do the best we can through education and through awareness and through prevention. That’s part of our mission statement right there. That’s part of our core. F.A.D.D knows they’re going to drink anyway whether your at zero tolerance or a .08 tolerance type of thing which is what we have in California. California law says you’re not drunk until you passed .08 which a lot of states have taken that .08 feature on as a model throughout the country. That’s how we found out there are no way were going to make you stop drinking. We can put this flyer (out) we can put this education material (out) we partner with the youth. This is collaboration with the students, local students in Tulare County. This is where we operate. It’s our main headquarters. They see is partnering with kids and raising awareness on the dangers of underage drinking is where one of the answers comes in. We try to reach these kids from 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade and college. These are the age groups that are involved with F.A.D.D during mid-June to mid-August. This is our fifth year of doing the Y.O.S. Program. Youth Outreach Program because of the great success and the great feedback and the great results that have come about from partnering with the youth when they’re on summer vacation. This started back in 2009 as a pilot project with two youths here in Tulare County. We had such great feedback from the parents and the teachers that they started calling me, so we decided to do it again. In 2010 we had 14 youths that helped us raise awareness on the dangers of underage drinking. Well that became a great impact making program as well. So we decided to keep it going. Before we were implementing it in 2011, our third year, by the demand of the youths themselves we were led to create a special section and dedicate a section to students and teachers and schools on our website (www.faddintl.org). Now were getting youth from different parts of the country sending me emails requesting educational, prevention and awareness materials, flyers and key chains in order for them to do an awareness program or take the materials to a health fair that sponsored by their school. So that’s what we’re trying to do. Our focus for the last five years and our goal in some of our planning has derived from this program because there is such a need. We want to get to the kids before they start drinking. So that’s another one of the answers is with the adults, they’re already set in their ways – Hey man f--- ya! I’m going to drink anyway. I don’t care who you are or what you say or what you do. I don’t care if you put a thousand flyers in front of my desk or in my mailbox; I’m going to drink anyway. We already know that. Why reinvent their wheel because their wheel is already crooked. It’s out of alignment already because of that thought pattern. But we can help the youth develop a safe lifestyle by showing them and educating them what the dangers and consequences are. We’ve been able to be successful at it because of that.
Q - The police will position themselves across from a bar and wait until closing time to watch patrons leave the bar. I know of one instance where this was done so many times to a bar owner he ended up closing his bar.
A - It was what we call ``hot`` here in California. We call that a ``hotspot`` where the cops are waiting for you outside the drinking establishment.
Q - Would you say that’s a good idea?
A - I think it’s a good idea if they do that, but, it’s a double-sided coin right there. It’s a good idea for the citizens and the people of the community to have safe roads, but, for the people that own that business it’s not so good for them. One of the veteran directors Tom Lynn is in a certain part of Ohio that’s next to the University. If you go around the University, business owners have set up bars almost like Starbucks and 7 – 11 and C.V.S at every corner. All four corners have a bar in his community because of the University. They cater to the students. The students are getting busted. Some of them are losing their careers over a D.U. I. (Driving under the influence) they cannot be doctors, or lawyers or scientists or engineers or business people anymore and their parents get mad because their footing the bill for $100,000 a semester for tuition for their college education. They’re in trouble with their folks because they got a D. U. I. So that’s what’s going on. It has created an awareness and Provide a Ride over there in that community. I am the founder of F.A.D.D, CEO and the main decision-maker. We get information in from different people, different decision-makers from different walks of life, we put all that information together to come out with something that will work. F.A.D.D we’re not zero tolerance because we have been marketing portable breathalyzers. F.A.D.D cannot make people stop drinking, but if they can get one of those portable alcohol breathalyzers, we have a chance of helping them avoid a D. U. I. helping them avoid taking someone to the intensive care helping them avoid sending someone to the morgue. There’s always a chance for us to make a difference. Even though the person has been drinking, get the breathalyzer out. Let’s see if I can drive home. These things are very accurate. The called Redline Breathalyzers. Redline international is our global sponsor for this program. They donated thousands of these portable breathalyzers. We can do two things one - to have D.U.I. prevention and two, to raise funds as well because we sell them and put the money back into the other programs.
Q - In the cars of problem drinkers, they install a device which will not let the car start if you’re drunk. I can see a day where all cars will be equipped with that device.
A - They’re working on it within 10 years everybody’s gonna have an alcohol breathalyzer inside their vehicle I’ve done research on this. They’re making sensors right now that will either be on your dashboard or your AC outlet or your steering wheel where they’ll pick up alcohol. Once they do that, they will shut down your ignition. You won’t be able to start your car and get in trouble.
Q - And just know somebody will find a way around that.
A - Yeah that’ll cut the wire or whatever. There’s always people who will do something like that to get around it, to beat the system. If the big manufacturers General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, and BMW would go ahead and do this, introduce it, it would put a damper on the fatality rates on our US highways. It would help out.
Q - When did D. W. I. Become such a problem? It wasn’t the 1950s or the 1960s was it?
A – No. It started in the late 70s and by the time the 1980s hit there was a bunch of D. U. I.’s and it started killing 10,000 people on our US highways a year that’s when they started looking at it. People like the Mental Sservices and Substance Abuse and Mental Health administration, the National Highway Traffic Administration and The Office of Traffic Safety. They started noting it and doing the numbers, doing the statistics and doing surveys. That’s when it started growing it got out of control because a lot of people are dying out there on our highways. But they didn’t keep records in the 50s and 60s.
Q - They probably didn’t keep records in the 30s in the 40s either, did they?
A - No I’ve done some research and the first drunk driver was back in the 1920s the first drunk driving arrest was back in 1920, 1922. It was a cab driver that was drunk and taking people home. It crashed and they called the cops on him and they took him in for being inebriated.
Q - They didn’t have D. W. I. Laws on the books back then did they? Cars were relatively new.
A - No. The reason they did such an intense investigation was because of the people he was supposed to drive home safely died in that vehicle. The cab driver never should have been driving. He should have been at home sleeping. So, that’s what happened a long time ago.
Q - I almost forgot to ask you started F.A.D.D, are you a father?
A - Yes.
Q - Do your children drink?
A - No. One of my girls just came back from the Boston Marathon. She’s a top runner. She trains hard. My other daughter is a police officer. Our other daughter is a nutritionist and then our little one is in high school.
Official website: www.faddintl.org
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