Stay Safe: Ride With a Reindeer

Watch out, Rudolph, there’s another reindeer in town—and he’s helping to keep roads safe.

His name is Rudy, and he’s the mascot for Operation Red Nose (ORN), Canada’s holiday-season road-safety campaign, which offers a free and confidential chauffeur service to revellers who have driven to—but don’t feel fit to drive home from—their festivities.

The innovative program got its start in 1984 after then Laval University swim coach and math-em-at-ician Jean-Marie De Koninck heard a radio show in which a bartender discussed the reasons behind drinking and driving. “Bar patrons didn’t want to leave their cars in snowbanks or worry about retrieving them the next morning,” De Koninck explains. The program swiftly spread across Quebec and is now in place across Canada.

Here’s how it works: Early in the evening, ORN volunteers visit bars, pubs and company parties with mascot Rudy, handing out cards with the local ORN phone number printed on them. When people are ready to leave the party, they call ORN and a volunteer driver, escort driver and navigator is dispatched. The volunteer driver and navigator drive partygoers home in their own cars, and the escort driver follows in the escort car.

The clients arrive home safe and sound, and wake up the next morning with their cars parked in their driveways. Users of the ORN service can give a monetary contribution if they like; donations help support local youth-sports programs.

Volunteers say that an “ORN night” is so much fun that many come back year after year—one Abbotsford woman, Shonah Land, even takes her annual vacation to coincide with ORN’s operating schedule.
This year, the service will run in most provinces from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. on weekends throughout December. To volunteer with ORN—or to plan your own safe ride home—visit

This article was originally published in the December 2009 issue of Reader’s Digest. Subscribe today and never miss an issue!