It’s not a trick — Designated Dawgs really wants to give you a free ride.
Designated Dawgs is a non-profit organization run by University students who volunteer to provide late-night rides in an effort to prevent drunk driving.
“I think people think there’s a catch,” said Justin Livingston, a junior marketing major and a member of the group. “I’ve had people get in my car and ask if I was going to read Bible verses.”
On Friday and Saturday nights volunteers gather to give free rides home from downtown.
“I’m really impressed with it,” said senior Jeff Shurtleff, after asking several times whether it was really a free service. “It’s great that they do this for free. The goody bags are pretty cool, too.”
At 9:30 p.m., Designated Dawgs begins the evening in room 509 of the Fred building downtown.
Volunteers are treated to free food every night by local restaurants — Saturday, it was Barberitos.
The 10 student volunteers prepared for the night by dividing up who will go in each car and who will stay behind to operate the dispatch service.
Each car has a driver and navigator who is responsible for directions and reading instructions.
The four vehicles are rented from Enterprise Rent-A-Car — one of the group’s sponsors.
Another common misconception is that Designated Dawgs will take riders to the police if they are underage.
The mission of the Designated Dawgs is to give non-judgmental, free rides home, regardless of age, said Lisa Reid, vice president of communications of the group.
“If you’re drunk and you need a ride, you’re drunk and that’s what we do,” she said.
Designated Dawgs will take home anyone who needs a ride — whether you’re intoxicated, stranded by friends or even escaping from a bad date.
Drivers only ask where you want to go and a name, but it doesn’t have to be a real name.
“You can be God if you want,” Reid said. “You could be Scarlett O’Hara.”
Designated Dawgs begins taking calls at 11 p.m. and continues until 3 a.m.
The wait varies from just a few minutes during slow times to about 20 minutes during the peak times between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m.
When riders get in the car they’re asked to first buckle their seat belt.
“If at any point during the ride, you feel the need to relieve yourself in any manner, please inform us immediately,” said the navigator as he read from the rider’s bill of rights.
The driver, Reid, chatted easily with riders on the way home.
Many riders seemed grateful for the ride home and some even expressed interest in volunteering themselves.
“I would designate the hell out of some dawgs if I wasn’t drunk right now,” a junior risk management major from Warner Robins said. “On a scale of zero to 10, I rate Designated Dawgs a 10.”
Volunteers said even though it’s a long night, the time goes by quickly.
“I’ve already seen some really exciting things so far and I’ve only been here two hours,” said Becky Pavlichek, a junior accounting major and first-time volunteer.
One young woman played mom for the night for her friend, who whimpered as she was led to the car.
“It’s 3 a.m., the bars are about to close,” she told her friend as she closed the door of the car at 12:30 a.m.
Drunk people aren’t the only ones who require extra patience.
One woman decided the bright yellow cone reserving a parking space for Designated Dawgs vehicles was only a suggestion.
She shrugged before running over the cone and then going into City Bar.
By the end of the night, Designated Dawgs had given more than 100 rides that night and surpassed 1,300 for the year.
The appreciation for the service was expressed by one woman who shouted as she passed, “God bless you, God bless you all.”
TIMELINE OF A NIGHT WITH DESIGNATED DAWGS
11 p.m. — The group begins taking phone calls.
1 a.m. — Peak hours begin for Designated Dawgs. Wait times increase to about 20 minutes.
3 a.m. — The night ends. Designated Dawgs has given more than 100 rides.