Free designated driver program rolling into action for the holidays in Winnipeg

Operation Red Nose Winnipeg will soon be on the move.

The seasonal organization offers free designated driving so that those who have been drinking, or using recreational drugs, get home safely – and in their own car. This year, the program will start Nov. 24, and go until New Years Eve. The organization will take calls between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. on operation nights.

Satvir Jatana, vice president and chief customer officer for Manitoba Public Insurance, says the program is a lifesaver.

“Each holiday season, (this) amazing group of volunteers come together to give us safer roads. Simply put, these individuals prevent collisions and save lives. They help keep impaired drivers off the street, which keeps our roads safer for everyone,” she said.

RCMP said that as of Nov. 1 this year, it laid almost 550 impaired driving charges and made 964 immediate roadside suspensions across Manitoba.

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A spokesperson with the RCMP said some of the impaired driving charges are waiting on toxicology reports.

Last year, Winnipeg police reported 336 impaired driving offences, 231 of which were alcohol related. This is a 17.3 per cent increase from 2021, but just over 25 per cent less than the five-year average.

Manitoba’s minister of justice, Matt Wiebe, said driving under the influence can come with serious, and irreversible consequences.

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“Tragically, in Manitoba, 25 people on average are killed each year in collisions involving impaired drivers, and a further 86 are injured and many of those seriously,” said Wiebe. “The consequences of these deaths and injuries to families and communities is devastating. And they are entirely preventable.”

Tanya Hansen Pratt, national president with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, agrees.

“We’ve been saying this message for decades now, that people should disconnect the act of consuming alcohol and drugs with driving,” she said. “You have a choice. You can make the right choice.”

She added there are always other options available, like a rideshare, taxi, public transit, uber, designated driver or sleeping over. It’s just a matter of planning ahead.

“It really makes sense to make the plan ahead of time because as soon as you start consuming alcohol or drugs, you’re already going to impaired your judgement. So, you may not make the same wise choices once you’re impaired that you would have made by planning ahead.”

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Hansen Pratt said if you’re hosting a party and want to help keep them safe, to “make sure there are always nonalcoholic beverages available. So, if you do have designated drivers, or people who are just not comfortable drinking… then they know they have something available they can consume, and be a part of the party as well.”

Operation Red Nose is based in several cities throughout Manitoba. A list of those cities, their associated Operation Red Nose phone number, and operation nights, can be found online.

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