Vancouver Sun

Drinking driver who learned lesson makes amends through volunteeri­ng

‘I couldn’t stop thinking about the greatest mistake I ever made’

- TIFFANY CRAWFORD ticrawford@vancouvers­

When a drunk-driving suspension forced him to sleep at his office in Abbotsford because he couldn’t commute from his home near Buntzen Lake, Dave McCloskey had a lot of time to think about what could have happened.

“I got lucky no one was injured. I mean, why wasn’t I that guy who creamed a minivan and killed a family on their way to the airport to go to Disneyland? I couldn’t stop thinking about the greatest mistake I ever made,” he said on Friday.

In the pre-dawn hours of Christmas Eve 2006, McCloskey woke from a nap in his car after celebratin­g and drinking with mates at a pub the night before. He thought he had sobered up enough to drive home, but when he was pulled over by police because he was driving 30 km/h (“A dead giveaway, apparently,” he said) he blew over the legal limit.

A couple of years later, after hearing about Operation Red Nose, he realized that volunteeri­ng would be a good way to make amends to the community.

He signed up, and this New Year’s Eve wrapped up his third year as a volunteer. Following a dip in the number of riders overall in B.C. this year, McCloskey is urging revellers to consider going home with Red Nose next holiday season, saying that it can be good fun and a safe way to get home.

This year, his team pulled up outside a pub in the Tri Cities to drive four people home in their expensive luxury SUV and one of the women stopped and “took a closer look at me and then said, ‘Hey, wait a minute. You were my summer camp leader when I was a kid,’ ” he said.

“There is never a night without any laughs.”

The service, which started in Quebec and is now available in most Metro Vancouver cities except Vancouver, is reporting a slight decrease overall in B.C. this year at 7,623 callers, 145 fewer than last year, and down from 8,082 in 2012, when there was a spike after new drinking and driving regulation­s came into effect, according to Red Nose spokesman Chris Wilson.

He noted that it is hard to compare year to year because there may have been something that affected the service in different cities, such as a winter storm that may have kept people from going out.

But in some areas there has been an increase in the number of riders. In the Tri Cities, where McCloskey volunteers, 1,011 people used the service this year, up from 986 last year and just 107 in 2007.

Since he had no previous criminal past, McCloskey didn’t end up with a criminal record, but he did pay more than $8,000 in fines and lawyer fees, and received a 90-day road suspension.

At the time, he was working as a lumber broker in Abbotsford and had to sleep on the couch in his office, get up early to shower, and look presentabl­e before his colleagues came into the office.

“I had a lot of time to reflect. I had a sense that I got lucky, and then I wanted to give back. When people ask me why I am volunteeri­ng, I say, ‘Because I didn’t use this service.’ ”

Operation Red Nose, which has been operating in B.C. each holiday season since the mid-1990s, helps ensure intoxicate­d motorists get home safely along with their vehicles. A team of three volunteers drive to the caller’s location and bring that person home in their own vehicle. The caller usually sits in the back while the driver and a navigator sit up front, according to Operation Red Nose. The third volunteer follows them in an escort car.

The service is free, but riders often donate money, the proceeds of which all go to charity. In the Tri Cities, all the money goes to KidSport, a national non-profit organizati­on that provides financial assistance to help poor kids play sports.

The Red Nose service doesn’t exist in Vancouver because no one has organized one, likely due to the huge distances the volunteers would need to drive, said Wilson. But he added that he hopes a group will start one in Vancouver, possibly focusing on small pockets of the city, like downtown hotels and office Christmas parties, for example.

Vancouver police handed out 95 immediate roadside prohibitio­ns during the 2014 winter Counteratt­ack campaign, according to spokesman Const. Brian Montague.

 ??  ?? Dave McCloskey, far right, volunteers with Operation Red Nose in the Tri Cities.
Dave McCloskey, far right, volunteers with Operation Red Nose in the Tri Cities.

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