Everyone knows it's not cool to drink and drive, but rounding up a designated driver can be a drag. Now it's becoming surprisingly hip to hand over your keys to a stranger on a scooter. On New Year's Eve, for instance, some 350 Coloradans caught a lift with NightRiders, a designated-driver service that safely deposits the inebriated--along with their cars--back home after a big night out. The company, like others popping up across the country, relies on collapsible scooters small enough to fit into a backseat or trunk to get its employees from one customer pickup to the next. CityScoot in Louisville, Ky., offers prepaid cards and a catchy phone number (56-NO-DUI). Home James, a ritzy service in Los Angeles that features drivers in mod suits with fake British accents, has even won that ultimate stamp of media-age approval: a reality-TV-show pilot.
NightRiders, founded three years ago by a trio of college seniors in Boulder, initially aimed at the town's large student population but has since found more of its clientele among an older crowd. With a VIP service that includes discounts on drinks, the company, which expanded into Denver in September and plans to move into at least five other cities this year, is endorsed by the Colorado State Patrol and sponsored by the likes of local beer Goliath Coors, which agreed to pay the first $20 of every ride on New Year's. But NightRiders' most effective marketing tool is a poster comparing its fees--a $15 flat rate plus $2 a mile--with the price of a single DUI conviction, which can run up to $8,866 in Colorado when fines, legal fees and auto-insurance penalties are included. "The sad fact of it is," says NightRiders co-founder Brad Dickerhofe, "people are more concerned about being busted than about putting lives at risk." --By Hope Reeves and Julie Rawe