Will you BeMyDD? Your next one could be a phone call away … for a price

Franklin Avenue in downtown Kent is a popular place for people to go out to bars and restaurants on weekends.

Franklin Avenue in downtown Kent is a popular place for people to go out to bars and restaurants on weekends.

Mark Oprea

A familiar situation: You’re out at the bar downing cocktails with the regulars when last call hits. You’re a little wobbly. But you’ve got to go, and options are sparse. Call a cab? Risk the drive down Main? Pity that psych grad into a late night car pool?

Finding a ride in the age of DIY taxi services isn’t as onerous as the past methods make it out to be. Many Uber and Lyft drivers work the late shift, profiting off hordes of desperate undergrads scrambling for a secure ride back home. Since Uber’s debut in May 2010, the service has been redefining how we get around in the moonlight, taking in the factor of spontaneity as one of its virtues. Especially in the face of DUI threats, calling for a ride is undeniably the safe bet versus playing the “can I make it home game.”

Even with the looming presence of Uber and Lyft — more so present in populated cities than college towns — taxi services are still the norm for lifts out of frat row. Kent’s most popular taxi services, 1 Fast Transport and Porter’s Taxi (Go2Go shut down last year due to tax complaints), are the often cited go-to services for Kent State students, advertising with a clear demographic in mind. Both offer rides around Kent at a flat rate and operate 24/7. Business is booming to the point that Porter’s Taxi claimed it has tripled  its business since last August.

But here’s the rub: What happens when you have your car with you?

BeMyDD, a designated driver service based in Cleveland, was co-created by Kent State alumna Alexa Milkovich as a solution to this problem. For about $25, a BeMyDD dispatcher will send out a team of drivers that will pick you up from any location — one to drive your car home with you, the other to follow in a “chase car.” The service claims to eliminate the precarious need to “assign a designated driver,” using its pay-for-a-driver model instead. Milkovich said it removes any need for sober assignments for a night on the town.

“That’s the number one reason why people get behind the wheel of a car in the first place,” she said, “because no one wants to drive or leave their car in some public place.”

The idea hit Milkovich when she was an economics student at Kent State more than six years ago. She lived off campus her junior and senior years and fretted when she had to walk the mile and a half to Kent’s downtown and back. Taxis were too costly, she said, especially if the rendezvous took place in neighboring Akron or Cleveland. Yet it was safety and convenience, Milkovich cites, as BeMyDD’s motivation.

And Milkovich makes a solid case. Last year, according to the Kent Police Department, there were 175 reported DUIs in the city of Kent (over the .08 limit), with 33 of those ending in reported traffic accidents. Three of those accidents were fatal — adding to the 271 reported by Ohio State Patrol that year.

Statistics in mind, the most cost-effective, late-night transportation around town may not lie with a designated driver service. According to its website, BeMyDD charges about $17 per hour for its personal driver service and a minimum rate of $25 for emergency pickups, plus the per mile rate. In comparison, 1 Fast and Porter’s both charge a $10 minimum flat fee for rides around Kent, many times a $3-a-pop deal if a “party ride” is on the agenda. Rides in town from points A and B, in a frugal student’s eyes, may go to the traditional cab ride.

“If it’s New York City, I understand,” Venix Cador, a senior computer science major, said. “But if it’s Kent, then I don’t see the benefit of it. The only time, I think, is when I am driving my car.”

And what about having a stranger behind the wheel of your car?

Milkovich states that all BeMyDD’s drivers go through rigorous background checks, with their professionalism represented by the ties around their necks. If something were to go wrong, Milkovich said that her company is insured up to $2 million, unlike Uber or Lyft. Repeat users (which Milkovich is certain she’ll have) of BeMyDD can even request that certain “Phil” or “Chad” that drove them home at 3 a.m that one night. It’s a perk of reassurance often overlooked by other taxi services, she said.

“And when you’re consuming alcohol, by that point, you don’t really care,” Milkovich said. “You’re just happy to have someone driving you around, someone who is safe and sober.”

Citing that her company fills an overlooked “void,” Milkovich asserts her designated driver service is a part of the phenomenon Uber helped to propel almost five years ago, although her company delineates itself from being a taxi service. Ever since 2010, BeMyDD has expanded to 76 cities nationwide, with Kent being its latest target for business. And it is not alone. The National Directory of Designated Driver Services reports that BeMyDD is a part of 622 companies in the U.S. with similar philosophies, some even making partnerships with nearby universities, including one at South Dakota State.

And most, if not all, like Milkovich’s company, seem to advertise their business as not just a personal service, but a public one, as well.

“People tell you all the time, ‘Don’t drink and drive! Don’t drink and drive!’ But they’re not actually providing a solution,” Milkovich said. “And that’s where we come in: We provide the solution.”

Contact Mark Oprea at [email protected].

Editor’s Note (January 21, 2014): This article originally stated that BeMyDD was based in Chicago. The company was actually founded in Chicago, but is based in Cleveland.