A safe-ride group is recruiting Quebec volunteers in the run-up to New Year’s Eve in an effort to reduce drunk driving.
The organization serves as a driving service during the holidays to help Quebecers get to their destinations safely.
Since its campaign kicked off on Nov. 29, it has given over 40,000 rides thanks to close to 30,000 volunteers.
According to the Société de l’Assurance Automobile du Quebec, drunk driving causes 1,800 injuries and 110 deaths on average in Quebec every year.
“If the number of rides rises or remains steady or even decreases slightly but we don’t see an increase in accidents in impaired drivers, well, we can still say mission accomplished, because this means people plan ahead, take their responsibility and act responsibly,” Operation Red Nose spokesperson Julie Martineau said.
Spokeswoman Danielle Vien told The Canadian Press the final night of the year represents a “big challenge” for Operation Red Nose.
Vien said a flood of calls between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. means longer wait times and a greater risk that drivers will shun the service.
Police across the province also aim to ramp up their road presence on Dec. 31.
Their operation — whose slogan translates roughly to, “Going out? So are we” — will see numerous checkpoints in place until Jan. 2.
The legalization of cannabis has raised many questions this year about impaired driving and its risks.
A clinical trial by the McGill University Health Centre funded by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) concluded that young Canadians are more at risk of a vehicle crash even five hours after consuming cannabis.
“I’m pretty sure we had people that had their capacities impaired by lots of other things other than alcohol throughout the 36 campaigns that we’ve conducted so far,” Martineau said. “So this is not a new thing, a new issue for us and we don’t keep a number on that, either, and we’re not going to ask — it’s confidential.”
A CAA poll reveals one-quarter of young Canadians aged 18 to 34 say they’ve driven high on cannabis or travelled in a vehicle with a high driver.
Red Nose’s mission is to inform people about the consequences and alternatives to driving while impaired.
“What encourages us is that you are calling, you don’t feel like you’re fit to drive so you’re not going to put yourself and others in danger on the road — that’s exactly what we’re aiming for,” said Martineau. “We want people to know that there are safe options, there are safe choices to make even when it comes to alcohol.”
Those who wish to volunteer can sign up on the organization’s website, operationnezrouge.com.
Montrealers who are impaired can request a ride during the holidays by calling 514-256-2510.
— With files from The Canadian Press