After countless stressful shifts serving as designated drivers for Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity events in Blacksburg, Matt Sanford and Greg Smith have devised a safer way to give rides to students who have been drinking.
They wanted a better system to organize designated drivers, keep them from constantly checking their phones while driving, and to better manage those who need rides.
Sanford, a senior majoring in computer science, and Smith, an accounting and finance double major who graduated from Virginia Tech in 2015, created Drop A Pin (DAP), a rideshare mobile platform that connects students with designated drivers.
The app is a product of Applied LLC, which Smith and Sanford founded to insulate themselves personally from the app and to create an infrastructure that allows them to grow the business. DAP has been tested by members of Phi Sigma Kappa since the fall of 2017, and seven Virginia Tech organizations have used it this year.
“The main goal is to get drivers to focus on driving, not talking on the phone,” said Sanford.
This is how it works: An organization can purchase a monthly or yearly subscription to use the app for certain events. Once subscribed, users receive a code that connects them with a network of designated drivers available on a specific date and time. The app provides data to the user about the size of the vehicle, the driver, and the pick-up location.
Drivers can focus on driving without having to use their phones to talk or text with people needing rides.
Rides are free for Virginia Tech students who belong to organizations that use DAP. Each organization supplies the drivers and runs its own designated driving program through the app.
Other schools also can sign up to use the app.
Since the summer, the DAP team has made major changes to improve the user and driver experience. Some of these changes include in-app navigation and a brief ride history.
“We completely redesigned the app,” said Sanford. “We took a hard look at how quickly a person could get a ride and what steps we were having them do previously and what could be done more efficiently. We really wanted to focus on the user experience and make that a lot quicker. As far as the drivers’ portion, we did a lot of redesigning there to make it more distraction-free. There is a lot less physical interaction that has to go into the phone, which is really the main point of the app in general.”
Not only did Sanford and Smith invest copious amounts of time and energy into making the app, they also dug into their pockets for a developer’s license from Apple. They plan on making DAP a for-profit business in the future.
Saharsh Shrivastava and Abhinav Oddula, both senior computer science majors at Virginia Tech, worked on the Android version of DAP. Tevin Scott, who received his bachelor’s in computer science from Radford University, and Sanford created the iPhone version.
DAP not only helps students get home safely, it strives to decrease drinking and driving on college campuses. This is a goal for Hokie Wellness, too, said Kelsey O’Hara, health educator for Hokie Wellness.
“With designated driving in particular, a lot of times our education is centered around bystander intervention,” said O’Hara. “We promote people to never drive after drinking, a lot of times we will say ‘impairment starts with the first sip.’ That’s our philosophy because once you start driving you are impaired. So, never drive while drinking, don’t ride with someone who has been drinking, and step up if you see a situation occurring.”
O’Hara cited some national statistics, such as 76 percent of people who drink always use a designated driver, and 91 percent of people who drink most of the time use a designated driver. Hokie Wellness strives to get those numbers to 100 percent on campus.
To sign up for DAP, an organization can go to dapmobile.com.
“We are hoping it [DAP] provides a better platforms for drivers to run,” said Smith. “If they already have a designated driving program, we hope that it encourages them to keep using it and make it safer and better. We are hoping that other chapters who don’t have a program or don’t feel comfortable doing it over the phone, can use this to help them get more designated drivers on the road and have less drunk drivers. That is really the goal, to just make it as safe as possible.”