The evolution of the cab has come. For those who enjoy a night of drinking, two companies now offer rides home in your own car instead of one of the yellow checkered variety.
Leaders of BeMyDD, or Be My Designated Driver, and RAD, a.k.a. Rent-A-Driver, both say they offer peace of mind and convenience, since you don't have to retrieve your car the next morning.
"Really, the people using it are people who have something to lose," said Arthur Simanovsky, who launched BeMyDD with his friend Alexa Milkovich last March in Cleveland.
The company now operates in almost 20 cities in Kentucky, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Washington D.C. In Kentucky, the company serves customers in the Lexington, Louisville and Northern Kentucky areas and has been operating for several months.
BeMyDD's core customer is one who plans ahead and makes reservations with its personal driving service, Simanovsky said. Drivers, dressed in business attire, drive to the customer's home, drop off their own cars and transport customers to wherever they want to go within a 50-mile radius of Lexington in the customers' vehicles. A driver will even pick up a customer's friends, take them all to a destination, then wait for them until they're ready to return home, where the drivers will drive their own vehicles home. The fee is $12.50 an hour.
People use the service for events such as weddings and corporate affairs. Sometimes a couple will use it for an evening out of dinner and drinks, he said.
RAD, a locally owned business that has been in operation since September 2008, offers a personal driving service from time to time but is primarily a pick-up service. Customers call for rides home after a night out, said Jess Shepherd, who owns the company along with his brother, Bane Shepherd, and Kevin Bailey.
"Most of our rides are for people who've gone to bars," he said. But, he added, "We give customers rides home from Keeneland. We've also done afternoon football games."
RAD asks that customers call at least 20 minutes in advance to give its drivers time to get to them. The drivers work in teams of two. They drive to the customer, one gets into the customer's vehicle and drives the person home while the other follows.
RAD once used bicycles. Drivers would bike to the customer then put their bikes in the customer's vehicle and drive the customer home. But that is not as convenient as following in a car, Shepherd said.
"It just was easier and more convenient to use the follow car," he said. "Quicker, mostly."
The company charges a $10 fee, plus $2 per mile. The same rates apply for personal driving service.
"At 5 miles, we become less expensive than a taxi," Shepherd said.
RAD drivers wear yellow neon shirts so that customers can readily see them when they arrive for a pick-up, Shepherd said. RAD has about 15 drivers who will take riders anywhere in Fayette County, he said. RAD will also take riders to destinations in contiguous counties if they make reservations in advance, he said.
"Our customer base is a very regular customer," he said. "We feel like we're really doing a good thing for the community.
"We know there are people driving home drunk and they don't need to be."
BeMyDD also has a pick-up service. The fee is $25, plus $2.95 for the first 10 miles, and $1.50 per mile for each mile after that. The company asks that customers call at least an hour in advance.
BeMyDD's pick-up service operates like RAD's in that two drivers go to each location, where one drives the customer's vehicle and the other trails behind in another car.
Leaders of both RAD and BeMyDD say it's wise to make reservations far in advance for outings on or near holidays such as New Year's Eve or occasions such as Super Bowl Sunday.
Background checks are done on potential drivers, the businesses said.
Both companies also offer transportation for other reasons, such as medical appointments or funerals, but the majority of their customers are people who have been drinking, they say. Most rides are taken at night, particularly weekend nights.
Simanovsky said some companies have even opened a corporate account with BeMyDD, making the service a job perk.
"People are loving it," said Northern Kentucky's Bill Moore, who has been driving for BeMyDD since June and is one of 40 to 50 Lexington-area drivers. "They don't have to worry about waiting for a cab or a DUI."
He said a man hired him on New Year's Eve to ferry nine couples from his residence to their homes.
Customers laugh and joke and "talk to you like they've been around you forever," he said, adding, "You've got to understand something about me; I love to drive."
His regular job also involves driving; he's a courier.
Moore, 46, said he began a regular practice of driving people home on New Year's Eve for free when he was 18. Now he gets paid for transporting people who have had too much to drink.
"I swear by it," he said of BeMyDD. "Everyone that I've ever talked to, they tell me it's such a great idea."
Ricky Arnett, the main bartender at Dudley's restaurant, said driving services are a great idea. If a customer gets into trouble after leaving a bar intoxicated, he said, "it can all come back on you and the bar you're at."
"It's a great little service to have," he said. "I would use them."
Lexington lawyer Fred Peters, who handles a lot of driving under the influence cases, also complimented the driving services.
"Compared to a DUI, it's got to be a lot cheaper," he said.