WASHINGTON (AP) - The NFL players union has set up a system to provide safe rides for its members.

The agreement with Uber Technologies allows players to use smartphone technology to connect to reliable drivers. In a statement released Wednesday, the union says the partnership "underscores the NFLPA's ongoing commitment to ensuring its members have access to safe, discreet and professional transportation when they need it."

Beginning this month, NFL players will be able to summon a ride in any of Uber's international locations, including nearly 17 NFL cities and Pro Bowl host Honolulu. Once a ride is requested via Uber's smartphone app, a ride will arrive within minutes.

Uber and the union will distribute personalized key chain cards containing ride credits to every active NFL player.

"Certainly the issue of player safety and community safety continues to lead us to find new and better ways to keep our players safe and members of the community safe," said NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith. "We've brought state-of-the-art technology and marketing in this effort to keep the players and the community safe.

"In our world, we know discipline plays a part in changing behavior, but we really wanted to start this to look at doing a better job by treating it as a public health and safety and responsibility challenge. We believe this partnership with Uber meets that."

By using the smartphone app, players will be able to summon a ride without having to make an actual phone call or give directions. A GPS system is built into the program.

Many NFL teams have offered safe rides to their players for years and also provide assistance from their security and player engagement departments.

Still, there have been problems. As Smith pointed out, last December, the Cowboys Josh Brent tested positive for a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit after the car he was driving crashed and killed teammate Jerry Brown. Brent, who has retired from football, could get 20 years in prison if convicted.

"The goal for us is to change behavior," Smith said. "Currently in the United States we have increased enforcement and penalties, there's been increased focus (on drunk driving). Last year, we had a tragic accident in Texas.

"There already are dramatic penalties far above what the commissioner can impose in the NFL."

___

AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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