During busy times, like summer or Christmas, Vernon safe ride home company Driving Hands would average 50-to-70 calls per Friday and Saturday night, and that was with four company cars running.
In slower times during the week, with only one car operating, Driving Hands would help 30 people find their way home safely after a night out with friends or from an event.
However, the local company couldn’t battle COVID-19, and, as a result, co-owners Vic Spooner and Pam Wood have announced they are closing their service.
“We couldn’t come up with a really good safety protocol,” said Spooner. “We’re in their vehicles so we can’t separate ourselves from them.”
Driving Hands mission, from the day they started in the summer of 2013, was to provide an alternative to impaired driving in order to reduce the chance of accidents and loss of life on the roads.
Their service was available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to make sure that a person and their vehicle found their way home safely.
The decision to shut down was not an easy one.
“It’s a disappointment, for sure,” said Spooner. “We have a lot of good drivers working for us. They have to find other employment for now.”
“Our drivers have been awesome,” added Wood. “They’re sad. They’ve enjoyed driving for us and driving people home. That’s the sad part for us.”
Asked if the shutdown was permanent, Wood said it’s not out of the realm of possibility that she and her business partner would start Driving Hands again.
“A lot will depend on where we are next year with the pandemic, where Vic and I are,” said Wood. “We could very well start it up again. “
Wood heaped praise on the company’s customers, an estimated 3,600-plus over seven years.
“Vernon has been very good to us,” she said. “We love the community. We really enjoyed getting people home safe and enjoying their company at night. We’ve had some good laughs with our customers.
“Sometimes in the busy times people had to wait an hour, hour-and-a-half for us, and, bless their hearts, they waited. We appreciated that.”
Driving Hands is grateful to the Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP for what Wood termed an excellent working relationship.
“Instead of having people’s car towed, they would recommend a driver call us,” said Wood. “At check stops, they were always very polite and thanked us for the service we were providing.”
Driving Hands served the North Okanagan and made runs to Kelowna if required.