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By Jil McIntosh

Eat, drink and be merry: that’s what the holidays mean for a huge number of people. But if you imbibe and then drive home, you can be setting yourself up for serious trouble.

You know the consequences, but you might not always know your options. They can differ across Canada, but there’s one option that’s the same no matter if you’re in Nanaimo or Newfoundland: don’t get behind the wheel. Whether you have to find a ride or find a sofa, leave the keys in a safe place until next morning.

Remember, too, that impairment doesn’t just mean alcohol. Prescription or recreational drugs, or simple fatigue can also make you unfit to be behind the wheel. As well, never get into a vehicle when the driver has been drinking.

Here are some options that you can consider during this holiday season. They might not always be the most convenient, but they’re certainly the safest:

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.

Taxiguy – 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, redeemable in the cabs, that you can tuck in your wallet for emergencies, or give as gifts.

#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. The call costs from $1.25 to $1.79. It’s especially handy if you’re not familiar with the area and don’t know which company to call.

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.

As a party host – Be aware that you can be held responsible for your guests’ drinking and driving in many jurisdictions. Hosting tips for safe parties can be found at Arrive Alive.

The iPhone offers a Designated Driver app, which uses the phone’s built-in GPS to send your location to taxi companies or friends. Before you go out, you can set up a list from your contacts. When you’re ready, your phone sends text messages to your friends, telling them you’re ready to come home and sending them a map of your location.

Designated driver services

There are numerous companies across Canada offering designated driver services. Below is a partial list. (Note that these are listed for information only; does not endorse any services.)


Medicine Hat: Keys Please
Calgary & Area: Keys Please
Calgary: Drivers Choice

British Columbia

Vancouver & Lower Mainland: Keys Please
Prince George: Keys Please
Kelowna: Designated Driver Dads


Durham and York Region: Keys To Us
Barrie: Dial-A-Driver
Ottawa: Responsible Choice


Montreal: Point Zero Eight (requires membership)

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