By now, even a gin-soaked barfly knows that mixing drinking with driving conjures up a potentially lethal brew. Responsible drinkers long have had two options for getting home safely – asking a sober friend to drive or hailing a taxi cab.
An Ohio-based company called Be My Designated Driver is offering tipplers in nearly two dozen cities a third alternative: Turning your own car into an "instant taxi" by hiring a designated driver to chauffer you around for the night.
Alexa Milkovich and Arthur Simanovsky co-founded the service, known as BeMyDD for short. The idea was born out of frustration the twentysomethings and their friends experienced when trying to get home responsibly after a night at the bars.
"We'd always have to do the coin toss for who's going to be the designated driver, or who looks the most sober," Milkovich says. "And that doesn't work out too well."
Enter BeMyDD. After paying a $25 annual membership fee, you are eligible to use the company's Personal Driver Service and reserve a designated driver in advance to drive you around town in your own car. The designated driver – clad in shirt and tie – waits in the car while you and your friends carouse.
The service costs anywhere from $12.50 to $15 an hour, depending on location. There is a three-hour minimum, but no mileage limits. Cars can be filled with "as many people as there are seatbelts in the car," Milkovich says.
Fail to pre-plan before getting tipsy? No problem. Call BeMyDD and activate the "Pickup Service." A team of two drivers will arrive to take both you and your car to the destination of your choice. There is a $25 flat fee for the service, with an additional charge of $2.95 for the first 10 miles, plus $1.50 for each additional mile.
No word on whether BeMyDD throws in two free aspirin to help cure the next morning's hangover.
BeMyDD promotes itself as generally being less expensive and more convenient than a taxi service. And it's obviously a lot cheaper than the legal fees and fines associated with a DUI.
Milkovich and Simanovsky rolled out BeMyDD in Cleveland on St. Patrick's Day of last year. It is now available in major cities such as Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Miami and Washington, D.C. Milkovich and Simanovsky hope to have it in all 50 states by the end of the year.
Originally, the pair targeted drivers their own age – recently out of college and still in prime pub-crawling mode.
Surprisingly, much of the interest has come from customers who are "30 years old and above – people with something to lose," who don't want to risk the damage to their finances and their reputations that a DUI often brings, Milkovich says.
BeMyDD services are not limited to bar-hoppers. The company offers a "Peace of Mind" plan designed for weddings and other special events. And Milkovich says the service is can be used for other purposes, such as making sure an elderly parent gets to a doctor's appointment safely and on time.
Of course, every time you turn your keys over to someone else, you're putting your car – and your auto insurance – on the line. Remember the old saw: Insurance follows the car, not the driver. So if there's an accident, the claim will fall on your policy.
In the search for good drivers, BeMyDD only hires candidates who have spotless driving records, Mikovich says.
Many of the drivers have commercial driver's licenses and a history of working as limousine drivers. Drivers with DUIs or more than four points on their record and registered sex offenders are among those who do not make the cut, she says.
"We find ones that have experience," Milkovich says. "We interview them and background check them."
If you find a driver with a winning smile or an especially light touch on the accelerator, you can request that person when you make your next reservation.
The BeMyDD concept intrigues Michael Barry, a spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute. But he urges customers to ask about the company's insurance coverage and to find out under which circumstances BeMyDD would accept liability in the event of an accident caused by one of the company's drivers.
"In fact, I’d be looking for language to that effect in whatever contractual arrangement they asked me to sign with them," he says.
For her part, Milkovich says BeMyDD insures all its drivers and carries an umbrella policy for extra liability coverage. If an accident occurs and exhausts the car owner's insurance coverage, "that's when BeMyDD will cover the rest," she says.
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