By CYNTHIA McCLOUD
For The State Journal
A West Virginia University student has the ticket to keeping Morgantown residents from getting DUIs.
Eric Watkins of Morgantown runs the designated driver service Dub V Safe Ride.
"Everyone in Morgantown was getting DUIs so I decided to do something about it," Watkins said. "I thought if people could get drunk and keep their car with them the entire time, this would alleviate all the stress.
"If you drink too much and you leave your car downtown, you're going to get parking tickets. And then the parking authority is going to put a boot on it after it's been ticketed so many times," he said. "If you leave it in the parking garage, it's going to be $40 by the time you come back. If you have to work the next day, you have to wake up extra early, after you've been drinking, to get downtown, get your car and get to work. That would be a real big hassle.
"This allows people to get legally intoxicated as much as they want and legally keep their cars with them the entire time without the risk of hurting themselves or someone else."
Someone who is intoxicated calls Dub V Safe Ride and a designated driver is dispatched to his location. In good weather, the DD arrives on a scooter, which he folds and places in the customer's car. He then drives the customer home in his or her car and departs on his scooter. In treacherous winter weather conditions, two Dub V Safe Ride employees arrive in a car. One drives the customer home in his car while the other follows in the Dub V Safe Ride vehicle to pick up the other driver. Gap insurance covers Dub V Safe Rides' drivers while they operate customers' cars.
Dub V Safe Ride operates Monday through Saturday from 10 p.m. until everyone is home safe. On a recent weekend, Watkins worked from 10 p.m. Friday to 5:40 a.m. Saturday.
Prices start at $10 a ride and increase depending on destination. The company accepts cash and major credit cards.
"We're cheaper than a DUI," Watkins stresses repeatedly.
The company's eight employees take customers home to locations in Morgantown and surrounding areas. Residents of Fairmont, Uniontown, Pa. and Washington, Pa., need to make reservations to use the service. The designated driver service is available for events such as weddings and parties by reservation.
Watkins started his business earlier this year with start-up money from family and friends, angel investors and a $10,000 prize for winning the 2012-2013 West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition.
He is a senior at WVU majoring in multidisciplinary studies: business, entrepreneurship and strength and conditioning.
He started Dub V Safe Ride for fellow students, but has found that they are not his regular customers. Most of his clients are older than college-age.
"I started this initially to keep the college kids out of jail and keep them from killing each other," Watkins said. "The students are not my clientele. When you're a kid, you're more likely to take risks.
"Our regulars love us. We know where they live, who they're dating. They tell their friends about us. The bar staff talk us up too," he said. "People love what we're doing. They really appreciate it and it's good when people appreciate what you're doing."