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Prepaid Cab Rides for Teens

A service to help kids get home, safe and sound

Their car has broken down, they're stranded, and there's no way they can fix the problem on the side of the road. Another motorist sees them and stops, asks what the problem is and gives the group of teenagers money for cab fare home. When the Good Samaritan gets home, he thinks about how many times kids find themselves in similar situations--broke and unable to get home--and how often people bother to help them.

This is precisely what led Robert Cook--the Good Samaritan--to launch RideHome LLC, a Valencia, California, company that provides cab rides for teens in a bind. "I approached cab companies [and] found out that I actually just had to open an account with them with good credit references," says the 36-year-old. "I'm able to pay them monthly for any cab rides that we utilize in the areas they service."

Parents, in turn, sign their children up for a membership entitling them to cashless cab rides. The $49.95 annual fee covers a $19.95 membership fee and a $30 deposit for any rides (prepaid cab rides have a flat fee of $30).

Once the parents have signed up, either through the company's Web site or over the phone, RideHome sends out a dog tag to the child that includes the company's toll-free number and a membership number. Anytime the child needs a ride, he or she simply calls the toll-free number and an operator arranges for a pick-up.

And cab rides aren't the only benefit of membership. In addition to giving their child's name and contact information, parents can also offer pertinent health information as well as the name of their doctor and emergency contacts. Explains Cook, "If there's a situation [where the member] is found unconscious, [emergency personnel] can call my 800 number if they don't find any ID on the individual, and we'll have [emergency contact information] as well as blood type, allergies and doctors' information."

Since founding the company in May 2002, Cook has grown to five states and 602 members. He'd eventually like to have RideHome operating in all 50 states, with 50,000 members in each state.

Still, Cook's greatest goal for RideHome is a little more grandiose. "I won't consider it successful until I find out that it really helped somebody," he says. "The day I hear that somebody used this service and got out of harm's way, that's when I'll consider this a successful business. That's why it exists, and I hope a lot of people use it."

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