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When the husband and wife team of Darnell and Dina Latimer were mulling the idea of starting their own mom and pop business in Newtown, they drew from their broad range of personal and professional experience to create a livery service that is primarily but not exclusively devoted to those in need of disabled and medical-related, nonambulance transportation.
After nearly a year, the couple took delivery of what they hope will be the first of many specially outfitted and fully DMV / DOT-certified vans — and Be Driven Transportation hit the road for its first few runs late last November.
Since then, Be Driven has been busy. So busy that the couple is currently considering whether to branch into acquiring a livery Town Car for those who do not require their lift-equipped van, or possibly providing courier service for medical records with a small fuel-efficient vehicle.
While the Latimers are currently only able to provide transport in Connecticut, they are eyeing the prospect of expanding their livery licensing to New York, for clients who may either need to get to medical appointments somewhere across the border, or for up to eight riders who may want to pool their resources for a ride down to a Broadway show, sports event, or other activity in the Capital State or the Big Apple.
The bulk of the company’s runs to date have been concentrated in Newtown, Danbury, Bethel, Brookfield, Southbury, New Milford, and Roxbury. But Mr Latimer said he has provided a few rides down to Yale New Haven Hospital and Bridgeport on demand.
As a classic family business, the couple is fiercely committed to providing a safe, comfortable, and peaceful trip experience “with your favorite music playing, with plenty of reading and activity material, even relaxing aromatherapy.” But they also pledge to do so while treating their precious cargo with extreme friendliness, dignity, and respect.
The Be Driven office is open weekdays from 9 am to 5 pm, and Saturdays from 9 am to 1 pm, but being in the transportation service, the Latimers know that when a call comes in for a ride, they need to gas up and go.
Mr Latimer says in the short couple of months he has been on the road, his dialysis patient clients may need to be at appointments as early as 5:30 am, or well into the evening — and he gladly obliges at rates he says are among if not the lowest clients will find anywhere, and certainly markedly lower than most commercial medical wheelchair transport companies.
But the client care experience does not stop with their ride; both the Latimers and their staffers all have medical care experience. He is a former CNA, and she is a patient care administrator at a local skilled care and rehab facility.
Mr Latimer also has a broad background in various client service arenas, and he was formerly a licensed commercial driver “with every kind of endorsement I could get, from hazmat to tandem-trailers.”
“So he not only knows how to care for the clients, he knows every inch of our vehicle,” Ms Latimer said.
To conform to Connecticut DOT and DMV standards for the type of transportation Be Driven is providing, the couple had to have their van built and equipped from the ground up to ensure compliance to ultrastrict state guidelines. But they knew they got it right ahead of their final DOT hearing before receiving their licensing.
“The DOT said after our hearing, it could be up to six weeks before we heard whether we passed,” Mr Latimer said. “But our hearing was on a Thursday and we got the OK to begin operating the very next day!”
Ms Latimer said that with a growing population of older adults in town, it is important that they have options available to get to the places they need to go if they do not drive themselves or have friends or relations who can help with rides.
Their versatile Dodge van has a number of interior configurations that can accommodate up to three wheelchairs plus seated companions, straight seating for up to eight, or all the seating can be removed if their client is bound to a stretcher.
“This is not ambulance service, but occasionally we have clients who may be transferring between rehab and skilled care, or skilled care to assisted living, and they are most comfortable in a stretcher,” Mr Latimer said. “We even offer a limited one-way service to make using Be Driven even more affordable.”
All of the Be Driven staffers have passed a federal background check, and are medically certified in CPR and first aid, and are further trained to be able to assist with the range of needs or limitations their clients may face.
“I saw my grandmother go through several health crises, and I know how the medical care industry works,” Mr Latimer said. “We’re a family business not a franchise, so we’re very geared to accommodating all the clients needs — we aren’t going to treat you like a big bag of potatoes.”
“I’ve also seen my own family members struggle with medical issues,” Ms Latimer said. “So when we started this company, we made a pact that we weren’t ever just going to give someone a ride; we want to give them an experience they remember fondly and share with their family and friends.”
Learn more about the company, or make a reservation by calling 203-426-7820, 475-323-8407, or visit bedrivenllc.com