The volunteer-run organization – founded in Quebec City and known in English Canada as Operation Red Nose – recruits three-person crews to drive people home from parties after they’ve consumed alcohol.
This is the 31st annual Operation Nez Rouge campaign. It’s estimated 56,000 people volunteer for the program every year across Canada, providing an estimated 80,000 rides.
Much of the training volunteers receive is focused on getting through nights like last night: Friday, Dec. 12 was anticipated to be the busiest evening of the holiday season.
"[It's] one of the busiest nights. A lot of parties, a lot of people going out. They drink, so they have to call us," said Marc Infante, Nez-Rouge's director of operations.
Dozens of volunteers hit the road, picking up drivers who’ve had too much to drink. Back at the office, operators field calls, connecting crews with partygoers.
"We know that we're doing a good thing to keep the drunk people off the roads and save lives. That's the reason why I always volunteer every year," said Ronald Blake, the organization’s chief phone operator, who's been a volunteer for 22 years.
Underestimating blood alcohol level can be fatal
Experts say it's not easy to judge whether you're sober enough to drive.
Hubert Sacy, the executive director of the government agency Éduc'alcool, said people who drink one or two glasses of alcohol are more vigilant.
But once you're past that, he said, judgment becomes impaired.
"The moment you drink three or more, statistically, you're going to underestimate your blood alcohol content," said Sacy.
"And the more you're going to drink, the more you're going to feel you're able to drive."
Éduc'alcool encourages people to visit its website to calculate blood alcohol content before getting behind the wheel.