Operation Red Nose aims to keep streets safe during holidays with launch of 2023 campaign

An Operation Red Nose volunteer updates the ride schedule in this Daily Herald file photo. -- Herald file photo.

After a successful return to the streets of Prince Albert in 2022, Operation Red Nose organizers hope 2023 will be even more successful.

Organizers, dignitaries, and Lions Club members were on hand to officially launch the 2023 Operation Red Nose campaign at the Coronet Hotel on Tuesday. Program chair Randy Braaten said they’re happy to be back serving the community.

“We want to try and keep the city streets as safe as we can over the Christmas holiday season,” Braaten said. “It’s an important time of year, and we don’t want to lose anybody during that time of year if we can help it.”

Operation Red Nose shut down due to COVID in 2020 and 2021, but the annual holiday ride-sharing service returned in 2022. Last year they provided 130 rides to 275 clients, keeping more than 100 potential impaired drivers off the streets.

“Last year was a little bit slower,” Braaten said. “I think the first year back from COVID, there was still a little bit of hesitancy out there. We’re hopefully going to pick it up this year.”

Operation Red Nose provides rides on select weekends to residents who have been drinking and don’t want to risk driving their own vehicle home. The service is available by donation, with clients providing roughly $4,400 in 2022.

The Lions Club distributed that money among 11 Prince Albert elementary schools, who used the money to purchase library books, improve lunch programs, install new playground equipment or, in one case, build a warm-up shack for a nearby outdoor rink.

Braaten said they started donating to schools because they wanted all Prince Albert youth to have a good education. A different set of schools will be chosen after the 2023 campaign ends.

Their only concern this year is personnel.

“We always need volunteers,” Braaten said. “We have a few of the dedicated crew who always come back out every year because they see the value of the program. We’ve had people come out for one night or people who come out for a couple of nights or whatever, they try and get what they can.

“Last year it wasn’t too bad because it wasn’t that busy a year, but if we hit a busy year or something like that, it’s critical to have enough volunteers out there to give as many rides home as we can.”

Operation Red Nose begins on Friday, Dec. 1 at 9 p.m. in Prince Albert. It will run every Friday and Saturday night in December, as well as New Year’s Eve. The service runs until 2 a.m., except for New Year’s Eve when it runs later into the morning.

Anyone wanting to volunteer can call 306-76-6673, or email rbraaten@sasktel.net. Volunteers must have a criminal record check, which is provided free of charge by the Prince Albert Police Service or RCMP.

Drivers looking to request a pickup can call 306-763-NOSE (6673).

Operation Red Nose is an annual December campaign intended to reduce impaired driving. It provides free volunteer-based designated driver service catering to all motorists who have been drinking or who do not feel fit to drive their own vehicle. It provides patrons a safe, confidential ride in their own vehicle without getting behind the wheel themselves.

The program is intended to reduce the number of impaired drivers on the roads over the holiday season.

Prince Albert is one of four Saskatchewan cities running Operation Red Nose campaigns, and one of more than 80 across Canada.

Last year, Operation Red Nose provided more than 26,000 safe rides home across the country.

Dustin Duncan, the Minister Responsible for SGI, said he’s grateful for the volunteers who take the time to keep Operation Red Nose going.

“SGI is proud to partner with Operation Red Nose to help ensure people have a safe and sober ride home,” Duncan said in a press release. “We want to thank the many volunteers who take time out of their evenings to ensure everyone makes it home safely during the holidays.”