Saturday, August 20, 2011

A private sector remedy to DWI?

Grits has suggested before that non-criminal justice tactics may do more to reduce drunk driving than more cops, courts and jails, and a new Dallas-based business called RIDEonomy demonstrates a promising private sector model. The group's mission statement: "The number one reason people state for getting behind the wheel when they should be handing over their keys is that they don't want to leave their car parked overnight. By providing safe, sober drivers to get people home in their own vehicles, RIDEonomy's mission is to eliminate the "I can't leave my car" excuse in north Texas." An email from one of their founders sent to Grits read thusly:
You may ... be aware of the limited options available to bar patrons in Dallas County due to the unavailability of Dallas Ares Rapid Transit services between the hours of roughly 1:15 am and 4:20 am. Privatized options such as cabs are of little use during the most high risk hours of the early morning as drivers often refuse to acknowledge a fare whose destination is not DFW Airport or at a great enough distance from the flag drop to qualify as worth their while.

Because my circle of friends has for some time kept a pact that none of us would get behind the wheel when we should be asking for a ride home, we have decided that, together, we can make a positive impact on the DUI statistics in Dallas by offering ourselves as drivers to others who should not be driving due to impairment from drugs or alcohol. To sweeten the offer, we will drive them in their own cars. We'll be launching this decision as a small business we are calling RIDEonomy in the next few days. The date of our premiere is earlier than our originally-scheduled grand opening, but the coinciding national "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" and Statewide "Drink. Drive. Go to Jail." law enforcement end-of summer crackdowns targeting motorists with the use of saturation patrols and other methods has impressed upon us the need to step up our schedule despite the fact that we are not yet fully funded.

We believe that through dedication to making ourselves available to drive people home without making them abandon their cars overnight we will make a difference in the statistics and the lives of our fellow citizens in north Texas. All we have to do to make it possible is reach those at-risk drivers who need our services. In order to reach the people who need us, we have developed a marketing budget and campaign. The funding campaign for our marketing plan is, however, scheduled to begin in three days.  In order to effectively counter the crackdown, we need help.  This is where we hope you will come into the RIDEonomy picture.

Will you please take a moment to visit our website, I would be personally grateful for your opinion of the site and our program. Once you've seen the site, if you believe in our mission, all I ask is that you help us spread the word of what we are trying to do in Dallas by supporting our Facebook page at, directing others to our website and asking them to support us on Facebook as well as our funding campaign.
I've heard of similar business model elsewhere, and a quick web search found there are quite a few such services already operating in Texas. Here's a description from the same site of various versions of the idea:
Designated driver services generally work one of two ways.  There are ’Team Lift’ and ’Scooter’ approaches.

Team Lift is where two guys come to where you are in their vehicle.    One drives you home in your car while the other follows in their car.  They get you home and then both ride off together in their car.

The Scooter approach is where a guy arrives on a special scooter that folds up and fits into a nice, compact carrying bag.  He stows the scooter in your trunk and drives you home in your car.  Then he unpacks his scooter and rides off to his next client.

There are both commercial businesses and non-profit groups providing designated driver services.  Commercial businesses typically offer other transportation services as well.  They will frequently serve a single large metropolitan area and its immediate surroundings, if not that entire county.  Most non-profits work directly with individual restaurant and bar owners in their local city or county.  To use these services, you need to be in a participating bar or restaurant.  The non-profit designated driver services are usually cheaper and sometimes even free.  You should tip them!  Many of these services also operate only during limited weekend hours.  In fact, some are available during Holidays only.

Another way designated driver services can work is by membership.  Pay for your membership, and you can avail yourself of the service when needed.
This is potentially an important development because it actually addresses the main reason people don't take cabs or public transport home after a night of drinking: They don't want to leave their car stranded far away from their homes, and zoning regulations have essentially outlawed neighborhood bars so most folks who want to go to one must drive some distance from their home to find drinking establishments. If you need your car to, say, go to work the next morning, leaving it miles away in the bar district while you take a cab back to the suburbs really isn't a viable option.

If this idea were to catch on, it wouldn't surprise me if it did more to reduce drunk driving deaths than all the "no refusal" weekends ever implemented. I'd like to see such services widely publicized in bars, as well as more creative thinking about non-criminal justice approaches to reducing drunk driving. For the most part, the trail 'em, nail 'em and jail 'em strategy has pretty much reached the limits of its effectiveness.

See related Grits posts:


Swede said...

Nice try but no go.

I've had a few and it's time to go home. Do I want to call up some random stranger to drive my precious? Hell no.

DUI's will keep happening until oil gets too expensive not to have people be willing to pay taxes for proper mass transit. You simply have to separate Americans from their beloved personal transportation first. Though this kind of stuff can't hurt - at least it gets people talking.

Anonymous said...

What a bunch of bunk. Outlaw all alcoholic beverages and the problem will be solved.

Signed, MADD

Sandy said...

My cousin was a driver for a similar service when she was a student at Texas A&M. It was a service provided to college students by college students. She enjoyed being of service and, as far as I know, there were never any adverse incidents.

We've each got to determine which is stronger - our attachment to our vehicle (which we'd be riding in so the separation anxiety Swede mentioned should be truly minimal, barring serious control issues, which are another problem all together) or our attachment to our bottle.

Useful public transportation options would be wonderful, too.

DEWEY said...

"Outlaw all alcoholic beverages and the problem will be solved."
Please correct me if I'm wrong, but we tried that. It was called "Proabition".

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Dewey, I think you missed the joke.

Anonymous said...

MADD said...
"What a bunch of bunk. Outlaw all alcoholic beverages and the problem will be solved."

Not in my county. My county is dry, and I'll wager there is just as many DUI arrests per capita as in the nearest wet county.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Having lived in a dry county, 4:28, IMO there may be more DWI b/c you have to drive to the county line and back to get a drink.

That said, I think you missed 6:22's joke, too. :)

Anonymous said...

If I didn't think this was seriously being considered I would be laughing my ass off right now.

Wouldn't it be simpler to just start an order-out bar service. Call and order your booze just like delivery pizza? Then you can just stay home and get piss-your-pants drunk without ever getting in a vehicle.

By the way, we already have a transit system with special housing for idiots who can't be responsible. You get to ride in the backseat of a law enforcement car to the nearest "homeboyz housing" facility for a night or two.

A Texas PO said...

I've heard of several Texas cities with FREE programs where you call prior to getting blitzed to schedule your trip home, and a tow truck will tow your "precious" (as one commenter noted, I like to call mine the pimp-mobile) home and give you a free ride (either in the tow truck or in a cab depending on the number of folks in your party). These make sense, but even with mass advertising for such programs on drinking holidays, there are still a ridiculous number of DWIs in those cities. I fear that, due to the poor decisions of a few, we will all be required to drive around in car's with ignition interlocks in the coming years. That will definitely take much of the pimp out of my pimp-mobile.

Anonymous said...

Is 9:17am suggesting that people who use a designated driver service are "idiots who can't be responsible"?

If so, 9:17am is more likely to be MADD than 6:22pm.

Anonymous said...

I believe the simple point some of you are failing to see here, is this option, being RIDEonomy, takes the "I can't leave my vehicle" excuse out of the alcoholically challenged persons excuses, therefore getting them and everyone they may have passed or side swiped or t-boned on the way home. and throwing down a small membership fee per month and fair tip to the driver when using the service, is certainly a better alternative to $5000, and whatever other crap you'll be dealing with when you get that first DWI