DENTON (CBSDFW.COM) – For many people, driving Uber on nights and weekends is a way to make a little extra cash. Lisa and Lance Martin of Denton do it for another reason, to save lives.READ MORE: North Texas, Independently-Owned Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas Not Impacted By Chapter 11 Filing
When the sun goes down, the challenge begins. The Martins hop in their car and ride around town, trying to answer as many Uber pickup calls as they can on Friday and Saturday nights.
They often have college students in the back seat, UNT students heading home after a night of fun.
“There’s still a lot of underage drinking, but if we can get them at least to get in the vehicle with an Uber driver and be safe, then we are doing our job,” said Lisa. And the passenger often asks this question: “Why’d you start driving for Uber?”
The answer dates back to June of 2011. The Martin family was living in Prattville Alabama. The night before Father’s Day, their son, Lance Jr., was heading home to his parents’ house, when he was hit head-on by a drunk driver.
Lisa was a volunteer EMT at the time. Her husband was a volunteer fire fighter and their other son, Logan, worked as a professional fire fighter in their small community. They learned through other first responders that Lance Jr. was in a crash, just as he exited the highway.
Lance Jr., or J.R. as he was known, was just a few days away from his 25th birthday. He was finishing his masters’ degree in psychology, and hoped to be a counselor.
They raced to the hospital, where Lisa remembers falling to her knees and the doctor who tried to save J.R. grabbing her hand.
“Every bone form the hip plate down was completely crushed. The blood becomes toxic as it sits there and the minute the Jaws of Life are used to extricate the person, that person has a massive coronary. There’s virtually no saving someone like that. That’s ultimately how he died,” Lisa recalls.
Behind the wheel of the other car was a 19-year-old girl. An Alabama judge sentenced her to serve 60 days in the county jail.READ MORE: Prices At The Pump Climbing In Texas As Rising Trend Hits Nearly 21-Month High
“On Facebook she made a comment: ‘No tan this summer. Going to jail for 60 days.’ So I don’t think she took it seriously,” said Lisa.
The Martins thought they could do more to make a difference and carry on J.R.’s legacy.
They speak regularly to groups through Mothers Against Drunk Driving. They started a foundation in J.R.’s honor. Just this summer, they began driving for Uber in Denton.
“It just became a real challenge. How many people could we touch on Friday or Saturday?” Lisa said.
As a college student hopped in the backseat of Lance’s vehicle a few weeks ago, and asked why he drives for Uber, Lance told the young man this: “It’s in honor of our son, who was killed by a drunk driver, on June 19th, 2011. It was a head on collision,” says Lance.
Sometimes the passengers tear up. Others sit silently. The Martins say they’ve never had an Uber call where the passenger did not get out of the vehicle without thanking them for what they’re doing.
They look at it not as work, but as an opportunity. “We like to look at it like we’re saving a lot of lives that don’t even realize tonight could have been a problem for them,” said the Martins.
Taking the opportunity to drive their message home. “When we see so many people taking advantage of it, we at least have hope. That’s what it’s all about. The hope of eradicating a totally preventable crime,” said Lisa.
The Martins take all the money they make through Uber – about $100 a weekend – and put it in the Lance. R. Martin, Jr. Faith and Families Foundation. The non-profit supports counseling services for survivors of trauma. It’s the kind of work Lance Jr. wanted to do with his life.
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