Weekly Feature



2008-11-19 / Lifestyles

Don't drink and drive, unless you're with DDOB

Getting you and your car home safe
by KIMBERLY MCDOWELL Reporter

Co-owners Mike Mulé and Mike Peluso of Designated Drivers of Buffalo are using their "no excuse" policy against drinking and driving to provide their services in Western New York, helping to get customers and their cars home safely. Photo by John Rusac Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Co-owners Mike Mulé and Mike Peluso of Designated Drivers of Buffalo are using their "no excuse" policy against drinking and driving to provide their services in Western New York, helping to get customers and their cars home safely. Photo by John Rusac Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com It's 3 a.m. Everyone's had a great time and a few too many drinks, including the "designated driver." You can't call a cab, bec you need your car in the morning, and the subway system is only city-bound.

So, who's going to drive you home?

Taking matters — and responsibility — into their own hands, the owners of a driving service called Designated Drivers of Buffalo, 300 International Drive, Williamsville, are dedicated to getting you, your passengers and your car home safely.

Mike Mulé, the mastermind behind bringing the service to this area, worked behind the bar and in the restaurant industry for 15 years and said the No. 1 reason people didn't want to call a cab was because they needed their car the next day.

"After some brainstorming, it was why not come up with an idea to get their car home for them," said Mulé. "The more we looked into it, we saw there were (similar) companies around the country that were forming. ... We thought, if it's working in other cities, why not try to bring it to Buffalo?"

After nine months of research and planning, they finally did.

Co-owners Mulé, Mike Peluso and PJ Basile, three Buffalo natives, have created a solution that allows everyone to enjoy a night out and still have their car — and themselves — intact the next day, not to mention avoiding the jail time, heavy fines and license revocation associated with a DWI arrest.

Because many other companies that are in the business are out west or down south, there is a huge market in this area for the designated driving service.

The company serves much of Western New York, including Clarence, Amherst, Buffalo, Cheektowaga, Lancaster, Orchard Park and West Seneca.

Here's how the business works: After a call comes in to the company's service line, 713-7703, a pair of uniformed drivers in red shirts and black slacks are sent to the location within 30 minutes. One driver takes the caller and any passengers home in the comfort of their own car, provided there are enough seatbelts for each passenger, while the other driver follows behind.

Sounds like a good idea, but is it safe?

All drivers are required to go through a series of rigorous background checks, including DMV and criminal records, before they are considered for hire.

So far, the company has employed 10 drivers, or five teams of two.

"All of our drivers are trained through a defensive driving school and the company's own protocols to help maximize safet y, " said Peluso, who is in charge of logistics and the driving processes. "It is completely safe."

Employees are required to wear identification badges and are easily recognized by the company logo magnetized to the sides of their car.

According to Basile, an investor and financial director for the company, not only is the company fully insured, but each of their clients must be as well.

DDOB has made about 40 runs since its official launch in early October, offering a special membership rate in honor of the grand launch promotion: $20 for the initial pickup and $2.50 each mile thereafter.

After the first of the year, those rates are locked in for members; nonmembers are required to pay $25 for the pickup and $3 per mile.

But making people aware of the service hasn't come easy; the owners' biggest challenge has been trying to "get the word out" to the public about their business.

"It hasn't necessarily been a difficult process, just a long one ... it's going to take a while before people realize what it is that we do and become comfortable with what we're doing," said Mulé.

During a few promotional nights in local bars, the three 30-something business partners have found that they're being well-received in the community.

"The feedback that we get from everyone is that what we're doing is awesome," said Basile. "People feel there's no real option for them to get home, except to either call a taxi or drive themselves... We 're providing an invaluable service to people by helping them make the right decision."

Peluso elaborated on the company's "no excuse" policy — their creed that there is no reason to get behind the wheel whether a person has consumed two beers or 12.

"What we're doing is approaching bars and bar owners with our

no excuse' resolution, explaining how our service could help reduce their liability in the case of an accident and help keep their name and assets better protected," he said.

A handful of local bars, including Buffalo Brew Pub and 800 Maple, have already partnered with DDOB, endorsing its service.

Recently, President Elizabeth A. Obad of Mothers Against Drunk Driving for Erie County has expressed her gratitude for their service.

"(MADD) applauds the efforts of these individuals that are trying to keep our roadways safer for all of us, by offering the impaired driver an alternate method of transportation home," Obad said.

Corporate packages and special rates are available to help reduce alcohol-related costs for employers, such as lost productivity or worker's compensation.

DDOB also caters to a variety of other events, such as business functions, receptions, weddings, social clubs, college functions, dinner and holiday parties — generally, anywhere that involves alcohol.

Gift certificates are also available in any denomination and can be used as stocking stuffers for older sons and daughters, giving parents one less thing to worry about during the holiday season.

The company's hours of operation are 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday; 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday; and by reservation only for Sundays.

For more information on DDOB's services or becoming a driver, visit www.ddobny.com.

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