By Shawn Chitnis
DENVER (CBS4)– A new ride share service launching in Denver targets families that need to transport their children without a parent or adult they know. The service hires drivers with deeper background checks and more experience in child care.
“They get what a kid is thinking when they get in the car with them,” said Rhetta Shead, a parent living in Lakewood who often needs to get her daughters from Lakewood to Aurora. “They’re putting people who actually care about kids behind the wheel of a car with your child.”
Shead booked the first trip on HopSkipDrive in Colorado for her daughter after hearing about the service in California, where the app launched. She said the service made her feel comfortable with the driver taking her daughter from one location to the next.
“HopSkipDrive really communicated with me throughout the entire process,” said Shead. “The minute I signed up for my ride, I got an email with the name of the driver, her picture, her car, her license plate, and her bio.”
Common ride share services like Uber and Lyft explain that a passenger cannot be under 18 years old without an adult accompanying them. You must be 18 or older to have an account and book a ride. Parents cannot book a ride for a child on their account unless the minor is with an adult.
“I don’t know these people, I wasn’t getting any information, and to have some person I didn’t know and take my kid somewhere I needed them to be, didn’t make me feel more safe or secure.”
Angela Coleman was the woman behind the wheel of Shead’s booked ride, or her daughter’s “Caredriver” as the company calls members of their team. Coleman has experience driving for both Uber and Lyft but wanted a more structured driving service. She also is the mother of five and has two grandchildren.
“I have kids so I understand the necessity for safe rides for kids,” said Coleman.
Drivers like Coleman must complete a 15-point inspection, submit fingerprints, have their car examined, and meet an employee of the company before they are approved to work with HopSkipDrive. Rides start at $15 and rise in price based on time and distance. The company’s founders say they discovered a need for this service based on their own experiences as parents in California.
“We were really struggling getting everybody where they need to go and we realize this was not just a problem that we had,” said Joanna McFarland, CEO of HopSkipDrive.
Rides need to be booked at least 8 hours in advance but can be for the same day, later in the week or a recurring ride. Parents and their children also pick a code word to give the driver to make sure the right person shows up at the pickup location. The company also provides tracking for the ride and has a team that monitors all rides on their app.
McFarland says parents should compare this service to having a babysitter or nanny since it could help to reduce the amount of time they need someone to watch their children.
“When you need it and only for the amount of time that you need it,” she said. “So you don’t have to commit to a large amount of time just to make sure you have the driving part covered.”
Shead says she could see herself using the service on a weekly basis and would feel comfortable letting a child as young as eight or nine use the service. She encourages other parents to give it a try and see if it makes their responsibilities as a parent easier.
“[It] does help take a lot of stress off me on my day to have someone else pick her up and bring her to me or get her home,” said Shead.