1. Interview drivers thoroughly before you hire them. Make sure they are reasonably familiar with the routes you'll be traveling and with your town in general. This obviously requires the blind traveler to have a good knowledge of routes.
2. Pay attention to the driving behavior of your drivers. Lots of horn blowing or sharp turns may indicate you should hunt for another driver.
3. Try recruiting among college students. They have time, cars, and a great need for pocket change. They also like a challenge!
4. Drivers' pay can vary by location. Expect to pay anywhere from $6 to $10 per hour. If you pay at the higher end of this range, you may expect the driver to provide the gas (except on very long trips). If you include the cost of gas in the driver's hourly rate of pay, this can simplify the bookkeeping end of the process. Tips are appropriate for good or extra service. A few dollars is a small price to pay for keeping a good driver happy.
5. If feasible, you may want to ask local law enforcement personnel about the driving record of anyone who you are considering for hire. At least, be sure to obtain the social security number, driver's license number, and full name and address of any one who drives for you. You might also want to write down the name of the driver's insurance company.
6. Drivers hired for infrequent and personal use are hired informally, and written contracts/agreements usually are not required. Liability is usually not a topic mentioned by prospective drivers.
7. Make your expectations clear. For example: don't make a habit of allowing a driver to run his or her errands on your personal time; don't make a habit of buying your driver meals or snacks; and make clear to your driver whether you expect driving only or driving plus assistance (such as shopping assistance). Pay drivers from the time they leave their house to the time they arrive back home. Give drivers adequate lead-time to schedule trips, and then stick to the schedules and routes you've stated. Remember that drivers have other commitments too.
8. You may be able to obtain volunteer drivers via Americorps or church and civic groups.
9. You may have to teach drivers basic sighted guide. If drivers drop you at the curb, you may have to teach them to give you directions for walking away from the car (e.g., "the door to the store is directly to your left" or "take a line of travel off the front of the car on your side"). The position of the sidewalk/door/curb in relation to the car is often is the best orientation information available.
[Editor's Note: It is important to verify that a driver is properly insured.]
Contributor: Betsy Walker