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Daiko provide safe way home from drinking party

Date Posted: 2002-12-14

“Daiko” or companies providing substitute drivers for customers who are incapacitated to drive their cars are in the middle of their busiest season with year-end “bonenkai” parties in full swing. There are currently 85 such companies in Okinawa, and most of them are small operating only one or two cars driven often by students or otherwise unemployed people for minimum wages.

Up to beginning of June this year setting up a daiko company was very easy as there were no regulations concerning them. A change in law required these operators to obtain a taxi company license, but their drivers are still not required to have special licenses.

As it is very easy to set up a daiko company their number is rising rapidly causing some traditional taxi companies complaining that daiko operators are eating into their earnings unfairly. As the daiko provides a driver who drives the customer’s car with another driver following in daiko company’s car, taxi companies complain that daiko often takes the whole party, not only the car owner, and drives everyone home. These are people who normally would hail a taxi, they claim.

However, the competition is fierce between daiko operators also. Basically these companies charge a fixed fee per kilometer, but recently some are offering first three kilometers free. In order to attract repeat customers, almost all give coupons that offer up to 50 percent discount next time the customer calls for that particular daiko. Many have also made contracts with restaurants paying commission when the restaurant calls for service.

Some daiko operators have formed an association that tries to create rules that all operators should follow, but in practice the business is free for all. As Okinawa has long had the dubious honor of having the highest figure of drunk drivers in the nation, any means to get those drivers away from behind the wheel is welcome.

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