METRO VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s looking like many of us are getting the message about drunk driving.
Locally over the holiday period, about 550 people turned to Operation Red Nose and its volunteers, who drive you home if you’ve had too much to drink. That’s up from around 380 last year.
“A lot of people call in ahead of time to try to make a plan,” Chris Wilson with the group said.
Over 3,000 people volunteered their time over the course of the campaign, and Wilson says the people taking advantage of the service span all demographics.
“It’s young people, it’s older people. We don’t have a specific demographic that uses our services — just people that are responsible and want to do the right thing.”
Wilson believes attitudes towards drunk driving are changing. He says when the province changed its impaired driving regulations several years ago, there was a spike in the number of people using the volunteer service.
“Then over time, I think people just got better at making plans. They got better at making sure somebody in their party was going to be a designated driver or making sure they were going to be picked up by somebody,” he said.
“Our society is really starting to get the message, especially with young people. So, I think it’s a real positive thing.”
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On the enforcement side, Sgt Chad Grieg with Surrey RCMP says hundreds of people went through road checks the weekend leading up to and including New Year’s Eve. “In that time frame of those road checks, they checked well in excess of 2,000 to 3,000 vehicles.”
There were only nine immediate roadside prohibitions. While there were tickets handed out for various Motor Vehicle Act violations, no criminal charges laid for impaired driving.
“We’re pleasantly surprised to see how low those numbers were. We had no criminal charges for impaired driving for those three nights — which was great to see — which shows that people are now becoming more educated with being out there, enjoying the festivities, but not driving while impaired. They’re either using public transit, taxis, designated drivers, or simply walking.”
The Vancouver Police Department, meanwhile, has shared some information from its CounterAttack program, which ran throughout December. The VPD says in that time, more than 175 drivers were taken off the road for being impaired.
The force notes that figure does not include impaired investigations that are routinely conducted throughout the city.
‘We’d be very excited to see ride-hailing’: Operation Red Nose
As B.C. continues to await the arrival of ride-hailing, Wilson admits the absence of that service has helped allow Operation Red Nose to enjoy continued success in recent years.
“The whole idea of Operation Red Nose is to fill the gaps during the busy times. We run the four weekends before Christmas, as well as New Year’s Eve … those are usually the nine busiest nights of the season. Taxi companies are very supportive of what we do because they can’t handle that demand. I think if we had ride-hailing, it would make it that much better because there would be just one more option for people.”
He points out Operation Red Nose only drives people home in their own vehicle. “We can’t act as a taxi service. … We’d be very excited to see ride-hailing because it would take a little bit of pressure off us. We do get calls from people who just want us to drive them home without their vehicle, and we’re not able to do that.”
But Wilson isn’t afraid of Operation Red Nose disappearing if and when ride-hailing finally arrives in this province.
“In other areas of the country … what they find is in areas where ride-hailing is introduced, both ride-hailing and Operation Red Nose are able to co-exist every well,” he said.
“So, there might be a slight decrease in demand, but as long as people are driving their vehicles to parties or to bars or pubs and then needing to get their vehicle home, Operation Red Nose and other commercial-designated driving services are the ideal way to do that. Whereas, with ride-hailing, you can get yourself home but the next day, you’ve got to go back and get your vehicle.”
Operation Red Nose is always looking for volunteers. You can head to the organization’s website for more details.