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Ride-hailing service for kids launches in Las Vegas

The first ride-hailing service for children in Clark County kicked off last week, serving mainly at-risk youth.

HopSkipDrive began operating in the Las Vegas Valley on Jan. 6, with around 50 drivers, according to Qiana Patterson, vice president of strategic development for HopSkipDrive. Las Vegas joined 12 cities in nine states where HopSkipDrive operates, including Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle.

The service, which allows kids to use ride hailing, as opposed to the 18-year-old and over age limit with Uber and Lyft, provided hundreds of rides last week, according to Lauren Rueger, HopSkipDrive spokeswoman.

Although available to any family, the Clark County service has dealt mainly with transporting foster and at-risk youth to and from school, Patterson said.

“The response has been really good,” Patterson said. “If you removed, let’s say, five kids on Sunday from their home and place them in an emergency shelter or a location with a caregiver, to get them to school the next day it’s really hard for a government agency to be able to respond quickly. One thing important to foster kids is to have that stability … Our work in Vegas and other regions provides that.”

Clark County commissioners approved a one-year contract with HopSkipDrive for $250,000 last month, opening up the possibility to work with the Clark County School District and the Department of Family Services. The contract could potentially be worth up to $1.25 million if all renewal options are exercised, available in four one-year contracts, according to county documents.

The service operates like any ride-hailing service, as parents, caregivers and schools can order rides for their children via a smartphone app. Rides start with a $17 base fee and increase based on time and distance. Families that carpool can share the costs to help offset the price.

With safety in mind, drivers in the field are tracked by technology and HopSkipDrive staff, who will reach out if the ride goes off course or something out of the ordinary occurs. The driver has a photo of the child and the child also has a code word and will be asked a predetermined question to ensure the right passenger is being picked up by the correct driver.

Drivers undergo a thorough 15-point certification process, are required to have at least five years of caregiving experience and go through a full background check, including fingerprinting, car inspection and driver record checks. Each driver is met in person ahead of being hired.

Deidre Foster, 47, is a mother of three daughters and a driver for HopSkipDrive. She said she’s happy to be part of HopSkipDrive, providing what she sees as an important service to area youth.

Foster works for other ride-hailing services in addition to HopSkipDrive and prefers transporting children over adults.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the kids have been great,” Foster said. “They’re talkative. I’ll tell them I’m from Hawaii and that starts up a conversation. They’re all going through a lot, but they’ve all been really happy and pleasant.”

After working the service for the first week, Foster has begun to see some familiar faces in the rides she’s providing.

“We get to pick our own schedule. As rides become available you can pick them and add them to your schedule for the week,” Foster said. “This week I have the same kids in the morning and some different kids in the afternoon. I think it’s better to have the same kids so they know who to look for… and to establish a rapport with them.”

With hopes that the service catches on more with the community, Foster said giving up driving for other ride-hailing services and focusing on HopSkipDrive is a possibility.

“I would definitely (work HopSkipDrive full time),” she said. “I’ve been around kids much of my adult life, I enjoy talking to them. To me this is a really great service and I hope it picks up. If you’re a working parent and need a safe and reliable ride to take your kid to karate or something, it’s available.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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