Mike Dumovich, at Home Sweet Home, gets ready for a night of driving on Vashon (Elizabeth Shepherd/ Staff Photo).

Mike Dumovich, at Home Sweet Home, gets ready for a night of driving on Vashon (Elizabeth Shepherd/ Staff Photo).

For islanders who shouldn’t drive, help is a phone call away

Mike Dumovitch offers a community-driven ride service.

Mike Dumovich is on a mission to make sure everyone gets home safe and sound.

Last month, Dumovich, a musician who was born and raised on Vashon, launched a community-supported ride service aimed at keeping impaired drivers off the road.

The service, available Thursday through Saturday nights, is offered for free by Dumovich, but he welcomes tips from riders to help cover his costs, including gas. He offers rides both to and from local bars and restaurants — allowing islanders the option of leaving their cars at home for the night, altogether. Why take a risk, when you can be driven in style by Dumovich in his burgundy Toyota Highlander, complete with his kids’ snack crumbs, loose Legos and other toys in the back seat?

It’s all as simple as it first sounded when Dumovich announced it in a Facebook post on July 26: “Free rides for Vashon peeps tonight 8-late, talk to your bartender for info,” Dumovich wrote.

Since then, he said, he’s given rides to 33 islanders, receiving calls not only directly from passengers, but also from bartenders who are eager to spread the word about his availability to those who need it most.

Dumovich’s volunteer service is, in fact, both publicized and subsidized by island nightspots, including O Solé Mio pizzeria’s Frontier Room, The Ruby Brink, May Kitchen + Bar, Sporty’s, Snapdragon’s Home Sweet Home and The Wild Mermaid’s Seagull Lounge. The bars and restaurants, Dumovich said, display posters detailing his service and make nominal donations to help pay his costs, including his ferry transportation back and forth to the island.

Dumovich, an island native son who estimates that he has lived on Vashon for at least 35 of his 46 years, moved off the island three years ago, but he is still known and loved by many in the community. He now lives in Gig Harbor with his wife, Lindsey Dumovich, and his stepchildren, Rocky and Oliver.

Shawna Bowden, who works at Sporty’s, said she is grateful and supportive of Dumovich’s new endeavor.

“As a bartender, it’s always on your mind,” she said. “There is a very fine line between people going out and having a good time and having too much, and we’ve all given people rides home, and arranged them.”

She also praised Dumovich, who she has known since childhood, as having a temperament suited to the job.

“Mike is a non-judgmental person, and he’s not going to make you feel bad,” she said. “He just wants you to get home.”

The new service is a re-boot of something Dumovich tried four years ago on Vashon — and an indication of his community-mindedness.

Dumovich, a songwriter and recording artist, has released several critically acclaimed albums, and most recently performed as part of a Debra Heesch-produced tribute concert, “Love Me Some Townes Van Zandt.” But he has also regularly leveraged his connections in the music world to raise money for Vashon causes.

From 2015 to 2017, he produced the Chautauqua Music Festival with Vashon’s Eagles, working with a team of volunteers to raise thousands of dollars to support music programs at Chautauqua Elementary and McMurray Middle School. In recent years, he has also staged benefit concerts for Vashon Youth & Family Services and Vashon’s Interfaith Council, starring his well-known collaborators including composers Jessika Kenney and Eyvind Kang and Seattle music legends Bill Frisell and Wayne Horwitz.

Dumovich said that his many friendships on the island have played a part in getting his new effort rolling.

“History and social capital come in here,” he said, explaining why he’s trusted by people who might otherwise decline a ride home after drinking too much. So far, he estimates, he’s known about 80 percent of the people he’s driven.

Dumovich quit drinking 11 years ago and says he knows how much his service is needed on Vashon. Only one other ride service, run by islander Salina Milstein, operates on Vashon, but Milstein only does late-night pickups if they are arranged in advance. (Milstein, reached by phone, said she is supportive of Dumovich’s efforts.) Otherwise, Vashon is a place without taxis, where bus service stops around 10 p.m. on weeknights and 7 p.m. on the weekends. And Vashon’s tree-lined roads, off the main highway, are dark at night.

“I’ve lost three friends who have died from drunk driving,” Dumovich said.

Statistics culled from the King County Sheriff’s Office suggest that Dumovich’s service may well save lives and help islanders avoid accidents and DUI charges. Since Jan. 1, 2016, on Vashon, there have been 24 DUIs, seven DUI collisions and one fatal DUI collision. There were also three instances of “physical control” charges made against intoxicated persons in parked cars, with keys in the ignition — carrying the same punishment in Washington State as a DUI offense. All of these incidents, according to the sheriff’s office, resulted in a physical arrest and/or recommended charges.

In recent years, Vashon has also experienced an uptick in the number of places where islanders can drink, with four new bars — Camp Colvos, The Frontier Room, The Seagull Lounge and The Ruby Brink — opening in the past year alone.

And according to Chris Bade, bartender at Home Sweet Home, Washington’s recent legalization of recreational marijuana has added a volatile new twist to the problem of impaired driving.

“Nobody should be served so much that they can’t be driving,” Bade said. “But now everybody is smoking weed, and those don’t mix.”

Megan Hastings, the owner of Snapdragon and The Wild Mermaid, said she was thrilled by Dumovich’s willingness to take the driver’s seat. Three and a half years ago, she said, one of her co-workers and best friends died on Vashon in a drunk driving accident, and she and others are still heartbroken by the loss.

“It’s just one split second when somebody makes a really, really bad decision,” Hastings said. “So I’m super stoked Mike is doing this.”

But for Dumovich, the gig isn’t all serious. He’s also out to have fun and make sure others do as well.

One recent evening, he was called to give a ride to a television production crew that had been drinking at The Seagull Lounge. Dumovich said he wound up driving the group all over the island, showing them landmarks including beaches and bluffs.

“I’m not anti-alcohol,” he said. “Go out and have fun, but if you have an option not to drive home, don’t.”

His only advice to heavy drinkers came in the gentle context of urging them to become more self-aware.

“The second you say to yourself, ‘I should stop drinking,’ if you say that even once, you should listen to yourself,” he said.

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