PETALING JAYA: You’ve had a night on the town, partying with friends and knocking back an alcoholic drink or two. You know your car’s parked a short distance away, but you’re reluctant to get behind the wheel when you’re tired, sleepy, or worse, intoxicated.
What should you do? Time to give Buddy Driver a call.
The concept of Buddy Driver is simple – should you be unable to drive yourself home, a Buddy Driver will be sent to your location to drive you home using your own vehicle. The driver will also make unlimited stops as long as it’s all in a single trip.
Once you’re back home, Buddy Driver will head home or take up the next job by means of e-hailing, a shuttle driver, public transport or pairing up with another driver.
The Buddy Driver service went live in March and already has a network of 18,000 drivers who operate within the Klang Valley.
SOCAR Business vice-president Minhyeon Jo said the company’s booking numbers increased by 300% in November, with 400 bookings registered since the movement control order was lifted in September.
“We call it a success because we ensured the safety of our customers, preventing potential accidents from occurring. Additionally, 57% of customers became regulars after trying out the service.
“They also shared that they are keen to refer their friends to use Buddy Driver, and it is our aim to drive new users through referrals. We have also received strong support from the food and beverage (F&B) industry through partnerships with more than 30 bars at the moment,” Jo said.
Jo said 95% of Buddy Driver’s customers were satisfied with the service, including the safety aspects, pricing and availability.
Bookings may be made an hour in advance and are available 24 hours a day. Prices start at RM30 for the first hour, followed by RM20 for every subsequent hour.
“We do have customers who live outside of our service coverage area wanting to utilise BD, like from the further parts of Ampang Jaya and even as far as Penang, and we still try our best to ensure they have drivers. We aim to cover new regions and cities early next year,” Jo said.
SOCAR security adviser Azham Othman said the new amendments made to the Road Transport Act 1987 included a mandatory jail sentence for intoxicated drivers.
He said the Buddy Driver service can not only help prevent drunk people from getting behind the wheel, but also help them feel more secure and safe when out and about.
“If there happens to be a roadblock, you will not have to worry about getting fined or getting into trouble with the police because you are not the one driving. It is good to have such a platform that provides a service such as this, as we know that people do want to go out and have a good time every now and then,” he told FMT.
Azham said while he does not encourage drunkenness, the Buddy Driver service could be part of a long-term solution for those who are particular about their safety.
He said all Buddy Drivers are trained to handle various situations and so, people can feel safe while in the car with a Buddy Driver, despite being under the influence of alcohol.
“Drivers of good conduct and reliability are hired and trained properly before they start working for this service,” he said.
Meanwhile, Law Teik Hua of the Universiti Putra Malaysia Road Safety Research Centre, Engineering Faculty, said services such as Buddy Driver are important to address the significant increase in drink-driving cases despite laws that have been revised.
“This implies multi-aspect measures are required to tackle this problem, such as social education and driving services. The government and relevant industries should promote the use of e-hailing services with discounted rates. The use of this service among drunk drivers should become a common culture in our society,” he told FMT.
Transport planning consultant Rosli Azad Khan shared that if people drink, they should not drive.
He said a service like Buddy Driver is useful in such instances. Besides promoting road safety, it also ensures personal safety as intoxicated people are often victims of robbery when returning home alone.
Rosli said that while Buddy Driver may be new to Malaysia, the service has been around for many years in the UK.
“It’s only now that some politicians have decided to speak on the subject in an attempt to raise their profiles, which is unnecessary.
“Road accidents happen for many different reasons including driving under the influence. But it’s easier to stop motorists and ask them to take a breathalyser test on the spot rather than make them take a urine test for drugs. This is definitely a fallacy that is building into a wrong perception,” he said.
Customers wanting to try out the service may use TRYBD to receive one hour free upon checking out. This is available on the TREVO app at https://go.trevo.my/uVr12cdgKlb.