In 1984, Jean-Marie De Koninck was a mathematics professor (he still is today) and, in his free time, the head coach of the swim club at Laval University. Wanting to provide bursaries for student athletes, he was looking for an original way to raise funds for his team.
One day, at the end of September 1984, as he was driving, he was listening to a radio show about the serious problems caused by impaired driving. At the time, statistics showed that more than 50 % of fatal crashes were caused by motorists who had consumed alcohol.
Next, a bartender came on to talk about a disturbing trend he’d noticed at the bar where he worked. At closing time, many customers didn’t want to leave their vehicle behind and take a cab home not because the cab fare was too expensive, but because every good Quebecker likes to have his car in his driveway and have access to it at all times.
That’s when De Koninck came up with an idea: he’d get his 25 swimmers to offer motorists who had had a few drinks to drive them home in their own vehicle. With the collaboration of the Quebec City municipal police and CHRC radio station, the very first Operation Red Nose campaign was thus launched from December 13th to the 23rd, 1984.
Needless the say, that first campaign was a success, and the Operation Red Nose campaign has been held during every holiday season since 1984. From a mere fundraising idea, De Koninck has developed a road safety campaign which benefits the population all year long.
Today, more than 100 organizations across Canada benefit from the proceeds of the Operation Red Nose campaign. Each year, between $1,200,000 and $1,300,000 are redistributed to non-profit youth organizations and/or amateur sports organizations.
From the very beginning, Operation Red Nose adopted a philosophy that enabled it to gain the trust and respect of the population. The organization does not encourage nor condone those who choose to have a drink. Instead, the message « DON’T DRIVE IF YOU ARE IMPAIRED» is conveyed in a humorous and non-judgemental way. Operation Red Nose’s preventive approach is a wonderful complement to the more repressive measures of the law.
Since 1984, Operation Red Nose hasn’t stopped growing and welcoming new communities, reinforcing the effects of its road safety campaign. In 1989, Operation Red Nose entered into a partnership with Éduc’alcool in order to create Tournée Party sans Déraper, a program that brings awareness to young people ages 16 to 24 about the importance of acting responsibly when it comes to alcohol consumption and impaired driving.
In 2006, the program C’est notre tournée! was launched with, once again, the collaboration of Éduc’alcool. This time, the program is an interactive conference offered for free in work places, and the objective is to promote moderation in the consumption of alcohol and to prevent impaired driving with workers, consumers and parents.
The last program to make its appearance in the Red Nose family, in 2008, is the Bouclez-la! conference which helps bring awareness to young people and the public in general about the dangers of excessive speed and the importance of wearing a seat belt. During this conference, participants take part in a crash simulation done through a simulator.