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Dartmouth firm offers designated drivers for hire

Driverseat franchise owner Marko Jovanic poses for a photo in his car on Wednesday morning. The new chauffeur service will serve Dartmouth and Bedford, starting Thursday. RYAN TAPLIN • THE CHRONICLE HERALD
Driverseat franchise owner Marko Jovanic poses for a photo in his car on Wednesday morning. The new chauffeur service will serve Dartmouth and Bedford, starting Thursday. RYAN TAPLIN • THE CHRONICLE HERALD - The Chronicle Herald

A new business is looking to help car owners get home safely by offering designated driver services.

Marko Jovanic is the owner of Driverseat Dartmouth and Bedford, the sole Atlantic Canadian franchise for a service that has gained popularity in central Canada.

The business connects clients with drivers, which the company calls “coachmen,” to safely drive a client home in their own vehicle. A second person would accompany the driver in a separate vehicle, to follow and pick up the coachman at the conclusion of the trip and ensure the safety of both driver and client.

“When I came across Driverseat in a franchise magazine, I was really amazed that no one actually started it here because it was so convenient and so affordable,” Jovanic said on Wednesday. “It’s almost like going home with a cab. But it’s not a cab. You actually have your vehicle in your driveway tomorrow.”

Originally from Serbia, Jovanic came to the Halifax area eightand- a-half years ago. He now works with Halifax Regional Police traffic support services in a civilian job.

“Decreasing impaired driving is going to be huge,” he said. “Especially now that marijuana is getting legalized.

“The consequences are just really, really bad.”

Anisssa Aldridge, Atlantic regional director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada, said the organization is happy to see anything that encourages people to get home safely.

“We’re always asking the public and everybody to be prepared and make sure they have a safe way home,” Aldridge said. “So if they plan to go out drinking or if they’re otherwise impaired to make sure that they can get home safely so that they don’t get behind the wheel or get into the car with somebody who has been drinking. So we are for as many choices and possibilities as there are.”

Driverseat also offers trips to the airport, assisted transport and other chauffeur services.

While the official start date for Driverseat is Thursday, the service did a soft launch on Jan. 5.

“It’s been only four weeks but we had great response,” the 35-year-old Jovanic said, adding they have put posters up in several downtown establishments. “We even created a relationship with Savour Food and Wine Festival. They’re actually going to be promoting our services . . . for people who are going to be coming to their events so they can actually get home safe.”

They currently have 10 drivers, comprising five teams. A client would use the app, which is available for both iPhones and Android smartphones, to request service and a coachman would be dispatched through it. Clients can see real-time updates on the coachman’s location. They can pay for the service and tip through the app, so no cash is needed.

“You can message back and forth, you can call the coachman through the phone,” Jovanic said. “You’re going to see the picture of your coachman, his name and what car he’s driving.”

Service needs to be prebooked at least an hour in advance. They take bookings until midnight and operate until 3 a.m. There are women coachmen available if a client does not feel comfortable with a man.

Jovanic said they are looking to hire more drivers. They have to have clean records, no criminal history and at least five years of driving experience. Driverseat will provide training to make sure both the coachmen and clients feel comfortable and safe.

The charge for designated driver service varies depending on the distance travelled, and the coachman gets paid a significant portion of the fee plus tip.

The charge for the airport chauffeur service is $34.95 one way. A driver will take a client in their own vehicle to the airport, drop them off in front of the terminal and return the car to the client’s residence. They will take a picture of the car in the driveway and the odometer and send them to the client. The key will be kept in a secure location and the driver will pick up the client when they return and drive them back home in their own vehicle for a total cost of $70. By comparison it would cost $25 per day to park at the airport, $65 for a one-way limo ride or $60 for a one-way taxi, Jovanic said.

“We are looking as well to later on service the vulnerable sector like elderly people and kids with disabilities, so we can drive them from home to the schools and stuff like that because I feel that part is under-serviced.”

He also sees great potential in a service that will take clients’ cars to and from dealerships or garages for their mechanical service appointments while the clients are at work.

Driverseat was started in 2012 in Kitchener, Ont., by brothers Luke and Brian Bazely. There are franchises in Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

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