Pandemic sidelines holiday drive-home service in Sudbury

A group that discourages impaired driving in Sudbury will not be offering safe rides to those who have indulged in holiday cheer this season.

Safe Ride Home Sudbury (formerly known as Operation Red Nose) helps people and their vehicles get safely home from parties and holiday events when they’ve been drinking. Due to the pandemic, the group will not be operating this year.

The president of Safe Ride Home Sudbury says the decision had to be made to keep volunteers and clients safe.

Lesli Green is asking people who may venture out this holiday season, to ensure they’ve got a safe ride home.

“Even though we’re not there, people have to take responsibility for themselves and they need to plan ahead, not to drive impaired,” she said.

“There’s other ways of getting home, even though we’re not there this season to provide the service, there are other options.”

This is the first time in the group’s 21-year history they haven’t operated during the holidays, she notes.

The group says it will continue its community education initiatives, and will promote its safety messages throughout the 2020 holiday season.

The director of victim’s services for Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, Steve Sullivan, says he’s not surprised the service is suspended this year.

MADD doesn’t have a full chapter in Sudbury but Sullivan says he thinks the community will understand the need to protect volunteers and clients from the coronavirus.

As for it’s impact, Sullivan says there will probably be fewer office parties this year and perhaps fewer family gatherings.

“So I think there will be some impact, I just don’t know that we know what that impact will be. Having said all that, people still have a responsibility to plan ahead you know, just because this particular option is not available, you know we still expect and everyone expects us all to be responsible.”

Sullivan says that alcohol and drug use does seem to be higher with the stress of the pandemic and the holidays could aggravate the problems associated with impaired driving.

“Safe Ride Home Sudbury has proven to be one of the best crime prevention initiatives in the fight against impaired driving through a robust education and awareness campaign, coupled with its volunteer services,” said Greater Sudbury Police Chief Paul Pedersen in a release.

“Although the COVID-19 pandemic has changed service-delivery for Safe Ride Home Sudbury, they continue to support our efforts through education and awareness. Road Safety is a Shared Commitment and Crime Prevention starts with you making the responsible choice to plan ahead. The choice to save lives is yours.”

Last year, the police service nearly doubled the number of impaired drivers they took off the road over a four-month period, between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31.

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