Families urge people partying during Fiesta to have a safe, sober ride home

A local initiative has brought together more than a dozen bars that all offer free rides to prevent drunk driving

SAN ANTONIO – Natalie Garza said every day has been hard to bear since the death of her sister, Yulissa.

“Really hard,” Garza said. “She had a big heart. She would help everybody.”

Yulissa Valero was hit and killed by a drunk driver three months ago. Her family hopes sharing her story will stop people from drinking and driving during Fiesta.

“It’s scary because we know a lot of drinking goes on,” Garza said. “You can take somebody’s life, like the way Yulissa’s life was taken. It was just so unexpected. It’s hard.”

Garza urges people across San Antonio to plan and have a safe ride home. She’s pushing ridesharing and designated drivers. She’s also working with the Free Riders Program initiative.

“We want to be preventive. We don’t want to be reactive,” said Azeza Salama, the executive director of the program. “In our city, this is a huge problem.”

Salama lived through a drunk driving crash, but it forever changed her life.

“In 2016, myself and my family were hit head-on by a drunk driver,” Salama said. “Unfortunately, my fiancé at the time did not survive the crash.”

The Free Riders Program is an initiative that brings together more than a dozen bars. Their owners all have pledged to provide free rides to prevent impaired driving. You can tell a bar is a part of the initiative by a designated “Free Ride” green sticker. Salama said these are usually posted in bathrooms or near the bar itself.

“So someone sees a sticker like this in a bathroom. What are the next steps?” asked KSAT reporter Avery Everett.

“It’s as simple as just walking up to the bartender or manager and asking, ‘Hey, you know what, think I’ve had too much to drink. Can can I get a ride home?’”

Salama said some participating spots include El Camino, Perfect 10, Scarlet, Sugar’s, Hills & Dales, Aye Que Chula, Perfect Tender, Besame and Dive.

BCSO will be stepping up traffic patrol this year to look for people driving while intoxicated.

People traveling to and from Fiesta events can cash in on a rideshare discount. Passengers can use code VIVA2024 or click here to receive their credit. The offer is available from 2 p.m. Thursday, April 18, to 2 a.m. Monday, April 29.

About the Authors

Avery Everett is a news reporter and multimedia journalist at KSAT 12 News. Avery is a Philadelphia native. If she’s not at the station, she’s either on a hiking or biking trail. A lover of charcuterie boards and chocolate chip cookies, Avery’s also looking forward to eating her way through San Antonio, one taco shop at a time!

Joe Arredondo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.

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