Local dignitaries were on hand to welcome Rudy the Operation Red Nose Reindeer back to Burnaby last week after a two-year COVID-19-imposed absence.
Operation Red Nose, a by-donation safe-rides program that runs every weekend throughout the holiday season, was put on pause in the Lower Mainland because pandemic restrictions over the past two years.
But Rudy and his Operation Red Nose volunteers are back.
“We know that holiday parties and gatherings are returning this year, which means it’s important to have options available to make sure everyone can get home safe at the end of the night,” Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley said during the launch at the North Burnaby Legion Hall.
Hurley called Operation Red Nose a “vital” road safety program.
Burnaby RCMP media spokesperson Cpl. Mike Kalanj said an average of 65 people die in impaired driving accidents in B.C. every year.
He urged drivers to take advantage of the Operation Red Nose program.
“Make a plan. This is definitely a great alternative,” he said.
Kalanj noted extra officers will also be out and about during the holiday season to catch those motorists who still choose to drive impaired.
This is the ninth Operation Red Nose campaign in Burnaby.
The program was started in Quebec 39 years ago and came to B.C. 27 years ago.
Altogether, B.C. volunteers have provided more than 100,000 rides to people looking to get home safely after making merry.
“That’s more than 100,000 people that chose to call for a safe ride home,” said ICBC road safety program manager Robin Bell.
Bell emphasized drivers who feel unable to drive safely for whatever reason can catch a ride with Operation Red Nose “no questions asked.”
Each safe ride involves three volunteers: one to drive the client’s vehicle, one to navigate and one to drive a second vehicle that picks up the other two volunteers.
All rides are by donation, and proceeds from the Burnaby program go to KidSport, a non-profit that provides grants so all kids can participate in organized sport regardless of their family’s income.
While Operation Red Nose is back in Burnaby, New Westminster and the Tri-Cities this year, the program isn’t back in downtown Vancouver and Surrey.
The 2022 rides campaign begins on Nov. 25.