General News

Home James driving services operating this holiday season

November 29, 2018   ·   0 Comments

Written By JOSHUA SANTOS

Volunteers are being sought to help out with Home James driving services this holiday season.

Home James is a non-profit community program that provides free designated driving services for impaired drivers and their vehicles.

“For me personally, I have two young children and my husband works strange hours. He’s traveling around some times at 2 o’clock in the morning to come home. I want to know the roads are safe for, not just my family, but for everybody’s family,” said Amanda Zarifopoulous, volunteer coordinator for Home James.Zarifopoulous explained that if you didn’t plan to drink while going out to a restaurant or party, but end up doing so, they will drive you, your family, friends, guests and car home.

Home James has been operating in the community for about 10 years, three of which were under the Operation Red Nose umbrella. They decided to break off from the organization to create their own community hub. She said they had to pay to be affiliated with the organization.

“There’s different branches of it throughout Canada but we broke away from that because we decided that the money we were spending to be part of them, we wanted to put it back into the community, said Zarifopoulous. We decided to break away and create our own. Home James is purely for Caledon.”

In 2017, Home James provided 380 rides, 9,881 kilometres helped 830 passengers and had 126 volunteers. In 2016, they provided 393 rides, 7,506 kilometres, helped 1002 passengers and had 126 volunteers, according to their website.

Impaired driving, whether from alcohol or drug continues to be a problem nationwide.

Statistics Canada most recent data states that in 2015, police reported 72,039 impaired driving incidents, representing a rate of 201 incidents per 100,000 population.

Almost 3,000 drug-impaired driving incidents were reported.

The highest impaired driving incidents were reported in the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Saskatchewan while the lowest rates were in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba.

The majority of persons charged with impaired driving in 2015 were male. However, the proportion who were females has substantially increased over the past 30 years, from eight per cent in 1986 to 20 per cent in 2015.

Young adults aged 20 to 24 years had the highest impaired driving rates while almost half of impaired driving incidents reported by police in 2014 occurred between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.

While the Home James program is free, they accept donations from clients provided with their designated driver service. Proceeds go towards administrating costs while left over funds are directed to community-based organizations.

Volunteers are never on their road during a trip. They work in three, usually of a mix of men and women, for safety purposes.

“The team consists of an escort driver, a driver, and a navigator, said Zarifopoulous. The navigator and the escort driver go in the client’s car and the other driver will be following behind in one of our shuttle vehicles.”

“A team of three will go out and pick whoever it is that needs picking up and they drive together with the shuttle to the person’s house, drop them off and everybody gets back into the shuttle car and goes to the next job.”

Volunteers who want to driver need to be over 18-years-old with a clean driver’s license and insurance. Navigators however, do not need a license but still need to be over 18-years-old.

“One of our regular volunteers, her daughter just turned 18 this year and she wants to be part of it, said Zarifopoulous. She’s having her daughter be part of the team. Her daughter will be the navigator in the car and she doesn’t have to drive at all. That way she can help make a difference in the community too.”

Home James does provide their own shuttles however volunteers can use their own.

“We’re very, very fortunate that the dealerships have been very generous in loaning their shuttle cars, said Zarifopoulous. There are exceptions like New Year’s Eve. It’s a very busy night. I think we have 8 to 10 shuttle cars that are borrowed from the dealerships. If we have more than 10 cars, then people will donate the use of their own car but with that mind, if anybody does use their own car, we reimburse them the gas.”

The service is usually held during the holiday season however Zarifopoulous said they do cover events such as Wines of the World in Palgrave.

“We do the Caledon Beer Festival and then there has been occasions when we’ve done Caledon Day as well but now they have the beer festival as a separate day, said Zarifopoulous. We found that on Caledon Day there wasn’t as many people drinking on that day.”

“We don’t want to tire out our volunteer base. When we are asking people to give up their time on the weekends, if we’re doing that every weekend, it’ll be hard to get volunteers.”

She said their volunteer base has gone down quite significantly from when they first started. They do, however receive help from off duty OPP officers, Town of Caledon representatives, such as Mayor Allan Thompson, Ward 3 and 4 Regional Coun. Jennifer Innis, Ward 3 and 4 Area Coun. Nick deBoer, Ward 2 Regional Coun. Johanna Downey and Peel District School Board trustee Stan Cameron volunteer their time.

“There’s quite a few of the councillors in the area that actually do give up their time as well, said Zarifopoulous. Which is really, really nice because it’s part of their community and it shows they are part of the community too.”

“The OPP has always backed us. They were a bit dubious in the beginning because it was something new but in the all years that we ran Home James or Operation Red Nose, on the nights that we have been running, there hasn’t a fatality on Caledon roads.”

She said the program has almost become stable in the community with people knowing that this service is available.

“I think it would be truly missed if it ever did end because I think people look forward to having us, said Zarifopoulous. For the most part, we meet the most amazing people that use the service. It’s not just people that drink, it’s some families that maybe stay out late than what they were expecting to and they use this service because they feel it’s a safer way of getting home for the reason that there could be an impaired driver on the road.”

To volunteer, visit www.homejames-caledon.ca and click on the volunteer tab or email volunteer@homejames-caledon.com.

To request a ride, call their main line at 905-951-9000. You can also book it through their smartphone app on the Apple App store or on the Google play store.

The holiday season operational schedule runs on Nov 30, Dec. 1 and every weekend in December leading up to News Years Eve.

         

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