Friday, December 31, 2004

"The hardest part is changing people's minds, and convincing them that this is a viable option."

Justin Dilg
Co-founder of Safe Ride

Toma Podorean, left, and Justin Dilg will drive people home for a charge as a way of getting drunk drivers off the road while breaking into the business world. Their mopeds will collapse into the drunk of a customer's car.

A sober plan

A pair of recent college graduates
has launched a business aimed
at getting drunk people home safe

Justin Dilg has a message for New Year's Eve partiers: If you plan to get drunk, first clear out your trunk.

Dilg and his business partner, Toma Podorean, this week launched a new service called Safe Ride that they hope to steer to business success while simultaneously battling the scourge of drunken driving.

The two surfing buddies, both of whom graduated from college last spring, field calls from their inebriated clientele and one of them zips to the nightspot in question on a collapsible moped that is put into the trunk of the customer's car.

They then chauffeur the client home in his or her own vehicle before departing once again via moped.

With a $20 pickup fee and $3 per mile thereafter, it's more expensive than taking a cab. But Dilg and Podorean say that by bringing home both driver and car, customers also avoid parking tickets, towed vehicles, and overnight parking charges.

Like any novel idea, initial acceptance is a challenge.

"The hardest part is changing people's minds, and convincing them that this is a viable option," Dilg said.

Still, they've already serviced several clients since launching on Tuesday and expect a boost in visibility from tonight's revelry.

"This was spawned out of community concern over drunk driving. We view it as a service to the community," he said.

Safe Ride, which operates out of Toma's family home in Kahala, is restricted to the area between Aloha Stadium and Hawaii Kai due to the limits of moped travel.

The idea first hit them a few months ago after Podorean had volunteered as designated driver for a group of friends at a Kailua party, but felt left out of the partying.

After initially distributing flyers at local nightspots, the pair are now talking to nightclub proprietors and valet parking operators -- who could be liable if they put drunk drivers on the road -- on devising a mutually beneficial arrangement.

New Year's, Super Bowl Sunday and graduation time aren't the only times people get smashed, though, Dilg says. He intends to target clients at corporate events, weddings and birthday parties, and even medical outpatients.

"People who get cosmetic surgery, for example, might be shy about it and not want to be picked up by someone they know," he said.

After arriving at the pickup scene, Safe Ride first confirms that a customer's license, vehicle registration and insurance are up to date. If not, they walk away.

Though Podorean is a business major, it's been a learning curve for the two partners.

"I've learned more about business in the past two months than I have in the previous 20 years," Dilg said.

But there's one aspect of the business they're familiar with: dealing with drunk people.

"We're recent college students. We know how to take that in stride," he said.

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