By Jil McIntosh; photo courtesy AlbertaImpairedDrivingCharge.ca

Those of us at Autos.ca love nothing more than cars and driving them, but there are times when the keys should belong to someone else. The holiday season usually comes with more opportunities than usual to drink at parties and gatherings, and winter weather may make you less likely to think of ways to get home that don’t involve your vehicle. It’s never a good idea. Not only are drinking-and-driving laws now stricter in many areas, but it can take just a split second to make an alcohol-fuelled mistake that can ruin your life and the lives of others.

We’ve compiled a list of some alternatives that can get you home safely and ready to face the next party. All of us at Autos.ca wish you a Merry Christmas, a happy New Year, and a safe and sober journey any time you’re on the road.

Across Canada

Operation Red Nose – This service operates in select communities in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan. Find your community on its website and carry the phone number with you when you go out. When you call, a team of volunteers will come to you – whether you’re at a bar or a private party – and will drive both you and your vehicle either to your home, or to your final destination for the night. It’s free, but if you give a donation, it will go to a local charity.

Taxi Guy – Call one number – 1-888-TAXIGUY – and you’re connected to a national network of 425 taxicab companies, for a total of 17,500 cabs in over 700 cities and towns. You can buy “Taxi Dollars” through the website that you can tuck in your wallet for emergencies or give as gifts, redeemable only for cab fare. Smartphone apps are available through the website.

#TAXI – Use your cell phone to call #TAXI – that’s #-8-2-9-4 – anywhere in Canada, give your location, and you’ll be immediately connected to either the first available taxi company or one of your choice in the area. There are smartphone applications available through the website, too.

Arrive Alive – An iPhone app that lets you enter people you can call to get you home, your favourite taxi company, or a direct line to Taxi Guy. Get it through iTunes. Visit ArriveAlive.org for tips on hosting a party and getting your guests home safely.

Tow trucks – Many towing companies will tow your vehicle – and you – home after you’ve been drinking. It’s a lot cheaper than getting caught or causing a crash. Check with your local towing companies to see what services are available.

Public transit – Many areas offer special holiday service, and some provide free rides on New Year’s Eve. Check your local services, either on the Web or by calling, to get bus, train or other transit schedules.

Ask the wait staff – Most bars and restaurants will have the number of a local designated driving service or taxi handy and are more than willing to make the call on your behalf.

Below are services that can offer safe ways to get home. Check first to find out when designated driver services are operating and if you must book in advance. (Note that these are listed for information only. Autos.ca does not endorse any services.)

Alberta

The Alberta Motor Association lists phone numbers for several designated driver services in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Medicine Hat, Lloydminster and Grande Prairie.

Designated driver services:

Calgary & Area: Keys Please

Calgary: Drivers Choice

Edmonton: VIP Designated Driver

Edmonton and surrounding areas: AB Designated Drivers

Medicine Hat: Keys Please

British Columbia

Designated driver services:

Central Vancouver Island: Island Chauffeur

Greater Vancouver Area: City Ride Service

Greater Vancouver Area: Greater Vancouver Designated Drivers

Vancouver and Lower Mainland: A Safe Ride

Vancouver/Surrey and Area: Dial a Designated Driver (D.A.D.D.)

Kelowna: Designated Driver Dads

Kelowna: Home Safe Designated Drivers

Okanagan: Okanagan Designated Driving Service

Prince George: Keys Please

Victoria: Sober Wheel

Victoria: We Drive Victoria

Victoria: Call Mom Designated Driver Services

Victoria: Dial a Driver

Victoria: Driver On Call

Victoria/West Shore/Peninsula: Drive Smart Designated Drivers

Ontario

Greater Toronto Area – GO Transit will provide a special schedule for passengers to get home earlier in the afternoon on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. On New Year’s Eve, all rides are free after 7 p.m. For holiday schedules, visit GOTransit.com.

Ottawa – OC Transpo offers holiday schedules and free rides on New Year’s Eve after 11 p.m. For schedules, visit OCTranspo.com.

Designated driver services:

Barrie: Canadian Designated Driver

Durham and York Region: Keys To Us

Durham Region: DD Express

Greater Toronto Area and Durham Region: Reliable DD

Greater Toronto Area: WatchMen

Greater Toronto Area: GTA Designated Driver Services

Greater Toronto Area: Designated Drivers Canada

Greater Toronto Area: SOS Drivers

London: Premier Designated Drivers

Mississauga/Oakville/Burlington and Area: DDADD

Niagara Region: We Drive Designation Driving Service

Northumberland County: Northumberland Designated Driver Service

Ottawa and suburbs: Responsible Choice

Peterborough: CABn aHALF

Sarnia: My Designated Driver

Toronto and York Region: Home Safe Home

Windsor: AutoPilot

Windsor: Cruise Control

Quebec

Designated driver services:

Montreal: Point Zero Eight (requires membership)

Saskatchewan

Designated driver services:

Regina: Zero 8 Designated Drivers

Saskatoon: Zero 8 Designated Drivers

Rather than wonder if you’re really okay to drive, take other measures. The best course of action is either to put a completely sober driver behind the wheel, or spend the night wherever you are. If you know you’re going to be drinking at your destination, leave the car at home and find another way to get to the party. That way, you won’t be tempted to try to get your vehicle home.

If you are the designated driver, take your role seriously and stick with soft drinks for the night. And if you’re catching a ride home with friends, be sure that the driver hasn’t been drinking. If the driver has had too much, don’t just walk away – take away the keys and offer to split the cab fare to get everyone home.

If you’re the party host, remember your responsibility. Make soft drinks available, find out who the designated drivers are, and don’t let your guests drive home if they’ve been drinking. Start sooner rather than later: ask for everyone’s keys as they arrive at the party, and only hand them back when you’re sure the driver is sober. If necessary, pull out blankets and pillows for guests who need to spend the night.

Alternative transportation is seldom convenient and it can often be expensive. If that’s preventing you from finding another way home, think about how inconvenient and expensive it will be if you crash your vehicle or injure someone. We’re looking forward to seeing all of our readers make it safely over to the New Year.