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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Stay safe with the Uber driver known as Mama Bear

Mama+Bear+and+her+brother+Joey+who+was+impacted+by+a+drunk+driver+at+nine+years+old.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Nicole+Ochotorena.%29

Mama Bear and her brother Joey who was impacted by a drunk driver at nine years old. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Ochotorena.)

Mama Bear has become a well-known name at the University of Arizona as she frequents the area to drive students safely as they go out. Nicole Ochotorena, better known as Mama Bear, is an Uber driver who takes to the road for an inspirational reason. 

In 2019 there were 18,041 driving under the influence arrests in Arizona, according to Responsibility.org, and Ochotorena is helping to reduce this number one student at a time.

As a teenager, Ochotorena’s brother was hit by a drunk driver at nine years old. Now age 41, her brother Joey continues to struggle with a traumatic brain injury that has left him physically and mentally disabled. When Ochotorena’s son told her about Uber, she felt inclined to do her part.

Ochotorena described the struggles her family faced after the accident and how the consequences of drunk driving persisted long after the event. 

“We didn’t lose him, which is a good thing, but every now and then he’ll have seizures, and we’ll have to go back to the hospital,” Ochotorena said.

Mama Bear got her name from an incident at the beginning of her driving career. She safely drove home an individual, got them cleaned up, carried the student to their bed and watched them for hours until a sober friend arrived, according to Ochotorena. 

“The next day, I came out, and everyone was calling me Mama Bear. It was the name all the kids all thought of,” Ochotorena said.

She fell in love with the UA and the students she gets to meet. Ochotorena drives six days a week from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., ensuring all students at all hours of the day have a safe way home. It isn’t abnormal for a student to have Mama Bear’s number in their phone as she frequently offers it as a direct line to her service.

Her car carries a welcoming and fun atmosphere equipped with lights, music and her bubbly personality. 

UA senior Kate Gregson has had many rides with Mama Bear. Gregson describes her character as exciting and fun who brings warmth to the ride.

“She’s so fun and has real mom energy. She truly cares about everyone on campus. We all love her,” Gregson said.

Similar to her brother, Ochotorena was in an accident that left her with a traumatic brain injury. She said doctors told her she wouldn’t amount to anything, but she had an important point to make: she wasn’t going to let that affect her.

“I showed them I’m going to do what I’m going to do, and there is no way you’re going to stop me,” Ochotorena said. 

She shares her story with many people, especially those with visible disabilities, so that she can remind them that anything is possible with the right attitude. Without the right attitude, nothing will work in your favor, Ochotorena explained. 

Ochotorena believes that we are all family. We all come from the same place, no matter what beliefs one has, according to Ochotorena. She doesn’t look at anyone as a stranger and even offered to be a stand-in parent for Family Weekend.

“No matter if you’re one of my U of A kids, you’re one of my kids … If you’re over 40, then you’re my sister, brother, mother or father,” Ochotorena said. 

It is important to find a safe way home and encourage others to not drink and drive. Check in with a sober friend or call a ride share such as Uber or SafeRide. The UA offers SafeRide, a free ride-share program on campus and in surrounding areas. Check out the ASUA SafeRide website for more information and hours.


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