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by Brian Rogers

It’s a predicament most party-goers probably encounter at some point in their lives.  You want to get your car home at the end of the night, but you’ve had too much to drink - What do you do? Thanks to an innovative designated driving service in Regina, there is a safe alternative to driving drunk, and it’s more convenient than leaving a car behind.

Zero8 Designated Drivers have been on Regina roads for about a year now. The company started up in Saskatoon in 2008, and expanded to include Regina in February 2009.

After working for a designated driver company in Calgary – where six such companies are currently operating – Mike Bird and his wife, Tatiana Florez, decided to introduce the concept to a new centre.

“Saskatoon jumped out at us,” Bird said. A social worker by trade, Bird felt it was logical to introduce the company to a province with an unacceptable amount of drunk driving offences.

The concept is very simple. Just like calling for a taxi, a client calls Zero8’s dispatch line and discloses where and when they want to be picked up. From there, two Zero8 drivers pick up the client – one to drive the company car, the other to drive the client’s car.

Selling the new concept in Saskatchewan has been an uphill battle though. Bird admitted that getting advertising, especially for a brand new business, is an expensive endeavour. The company started by working on getting cooperation from local bars and clubs. About 85 per cent have been on board, putting up Zero8 posters and carrying brochures inside their businesses, said Bird.

The Victoria Club in Regina is one of such businesses. “(Zero8) makes a whole bunch of sense,” said Ron Kirchner, the club’s manager. Kirchner admitted he tried setting up a similar service in the city about eight years ago, but couldn’t get the project off the ground.

Still, Kirchner said that only a few Victoria Club patrons have taken advantage of the service over the past year. After spending a night at a bar, paying for drinks, a lot of customers would still rather take a cab than pay a little bit extra for Zero8, he said. If need be, Kirchner said he will not hesitate to cover a patron’s cab fare, if it will prevent them from driving.

Bird said that they try to make Zero8 rates about the cost of a cab ride and a half to make up for the fact that two of the company’s drivers are sent on each trip. Rides cost as little as $19, and will go up to $44 depending on the length of the ride.

Despite some early struggles, after a year in Regina, and a little over a year and a half in Saskatoon, Bird said business is growing steadily. Already Zero8 cars have made more than 2,800 trips in the two Saskatchewan cities.

The company spent six months advertising (three on radio, three on TV), to gain more exposure. Bird also said a brand new website is in the works.

“We can only grow from here,” said Bird, whose next goal is trying to get support from local corporations.

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