Firms escort drinkers home in clients' cars

Submitted by Dmitri Davydov on Tue, 2008-12-02 11:28.
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Chris Hart of Eastpointe enjoyed a romantic Sweetest Day dinner with her boyfriend at an Auburn Hills restaurant without worries about driving home after drinking.

When it was time to call it a night, a chauffeur for the Designate, a Birmingham-based designated driver service, safely drove the pair back to Macomb County inside Hart's 2008 Chrysler Pacifica. Another chauffeur followed the car and returned the driver to work.

Hart, 42, was pleased she took no chances by arranging a responsible way to get home that night and has since told her friends about the service she learned of from a radio advertisement.

"It's just peace of mind," she said of not fearing repercussions for driving under the influence like harming someone or a costly arrest.

Founded in March 2007, the Designate in Oakland County recently announced it is heightening its presence in Macomb County with an increased staff and a staging pod in Fraser. Those changes aim to reduce the wait time for customers without prior reservations just in time for Thanksgiving Eve, one of the biggest bar nights of the year.

"It has a vibrant social area over there," founder and president Tom Proctor said of Macomb County's growing population.

Hart agrees.

"It's nice to know you're not limited to a certain county because there's a lot to offer in Macomb County," she said.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving also approves.

"There's not a lot of that kind of thing across Michigan," said Homer Smith, executive director of MADD in Lansing. "It's certainly something that can enhance safety."

The Designate, which also expanded to Ann Arbor a few months ago, offers chauffeur services for rates of $25 an hour and on-demand service for $50 for the first 10 miles and $2 for each additional mile. With on-demand service, a driver meets the client at a restaurant or bar when it's time to head home. Proctor estimated the service makes approximately 300-400 runs a month.

Other clientele include radio personalities and corporate clients like the Detroit Lions and Ford Field, Proctor said.

"There aren't a lot of cabs around here. People drive everywhere and the issue of drunk driving is becoming a huge issue. Good people are going to jail because they have a lapse of judgment," he said.

Until recently, Designated Dave's, which is as much a community service operation as it is a business endeavor, was one of the few such services for the over-served in Macomb County.

Al Lashaw runs the 10-year-old service from his Clinton Township home with the help of friends, family and drivers who hope to earn a little extra money for delivering people and their cars safely home. Some rides are free.

He expects a busy Thanksgiving Eve celebration and is glad to hear there will be help answering the calls from people stranded at Macomb County restaurants, bars and parties.

"I don't really have time to make this a full-time business, so I'm not in competition," Lashaw said.

Another business, Designated Driver, is a 15-year-old company headquartered in Warren that was "specifically founded for people who want to go out and have a good time without the worry of how to get home," owner Marc Trail said.

[Via - Freep.Com]

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