Feature: Sensible (and sometimes free) alternatives to drinking and driving health and safety auto articles
Don’t drink and drive this holiday season

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By Jil McIntosh

Drinking and driving is always a bad idea, but it’s important to be especially diligent during the holiday season. That’s because you may find yourself with more opportunities than usual to drink at parties and gatherings, and because foul weather may make you less likely to think of ways to get home that don’t involve your vehicle. But it’s never a good idea – not just because drinking-and-driving laws are now stricter in many areas, but because it only takes a split second to make an alcohol-fuelled mistake and ruin your life and the lives of others.

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’ve listed some options below for you to consider. The staff of www.Autos.ca wishes everyone a Merry Christmas, a happy New Year, and a safe and sober journey any time you’re on the road.

Operation Red Nose – This service operates in select communities in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan. Find your community on its Web site 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 Web site that you can tuck in your wallet for emergencies or give as gifts, redeemable only for cab fare.

#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. Free smart phone applications are coming, so visit the Web site and sign up to be notified when they’re available.

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.

Arrive Alive – Visit this site for tips on hosting a party and getting your guests home safely.

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. www.Autos.ca does not endorse any services.)

Alberta

Designated driver services
Calgary & Area: Keys Please
Calgary: Drivers Choice
Edmonton: VIP Designated Driver
Edmonton & Area: Dedicated Designated Drivers
Edmonton and surrounding areas: AB Designated Drivers
Medicine Hat: Keys Please

British Columbia

The BCAA Safe-Ride-Home program provides one free tow for members who are unable to drive after consuming alcohol, or after medical treatment or injury. The program is a three-month pilot and available to members across the province, with one such call per year and limited to the driver and his or her vehicle. There is no extra charge if the tow is within the maximum towing distance allowed by the membership, but members can pay the per-kilometre extra charge if the required tow is longer. Visit BCAA.com.

Designated driver services
Greater Vancouver Area: City Ride Service
Kelowna: Designated Driver Dads
Nanaimo: Safe & Sound Designated Drivers
Prince George: Keys Please
Victoria: Sober Wheel
Victoria: We Drive Victoria

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 OC Transpo.

Designated driver services
Barrie: Dial-A-Driver
Barrie: Canadian Designated Driver
Durham and York Region: Keys To Us
Greater Toronto Area and Durham Region: Reliable DD
Greater Toronto Area and Durham Region: Home Safe Designated Drivers
Greater Toronto Area: WatchMen
Kitchener/Waterloo/Cambridge: Point Zero Five
London: Premier Designated Drivers
Ottawa and suburbs: Responsible Choice
Peterborough: CABn aHALF
Sarnia: My Designated Driver
Windsor: Safe Way Home

Quebec

Designated driver services
Montreal: Point Zero Eight (requires membership)
Province-wide: Cool Taxi