Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Designated Driver Services Sprout in Chinese Cities

China recently increased the severity of drunken driving penalties. As intended, people are less interested in driving around after drinking and there are fewer drunken driving cases than before. However, a new market for designated driver services has sprung up and is realizing tremendous growth according to this China Daily article. From the story:
According to the Ministry of Public Security's Traffic Management Bureau, from May 1 last year to April 20, traffic police handled 354,000 cases of driving under the influence of alcohol nationwide, down by 41.7 percent compared with the same period in the previous year. Drunken driving cases totaled 54,000, registering a 44.1 percent drop.
Instead, the designated driver business is booming in big cities.
"There are about 50 companies registered that provide designated driver service in Chengdu (capital of Sichuan province), and most of these were set up in the past year," said Chen Xu, vice-president of Chengdu Designated Driver Service Association.
"We received about 80 orders to chauffeur drunken passengers every day in the first four months of this year, an increase of more than 40 percent compared with the same period last year," said Wang Wei, manager of Beijing Luantai, which provides driver training, car rental and designated driving services.
Many hotels and entertainment venues have also cooperated with companies that provide designated driver service for the convenience of customers who consume alcohol.
"At least seven or eight of our customers ask us to call the designated driver company to arrange drivers for them every night," said Wang Jianbin, service director of a branch of Partyworld in Beijing's Chaoyang district.
Yet these services are unregulated and have difficulty buying insurance:
Designated driver service is a new sector in China and laws and regulations are absent, Chen said. "There is no government department in charge of the service."
Liu Jing, the manager of Changyinwuyou in Beijing, holds a similar opinion.
"Many problems still exist in the sector," said Liu. "For example, we cannot buy insurance for our designated drivers as there is no such type of insurance in China. So things become thorny, if a car accident happens."
Auto insurance is a bit weird in China anyway, and many (most?) crashes are settled for cash at the time of the event.

These types of one-way taxi services are critical for cities. Hopefully Chinese cities will figure out how to support the services and other cities will adopt similar measures.
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