Electric cars to the rescue in Ghent this New Year's Eve


Responsible Young Drivers will use Partago electric cars in its driver rescue service tonight

Partied out

Every year the voluntary organisation Responsible Young Drivers offers a New Year's Eve service that takes people home when they have celebrated too thoroughly to drive themselves. In Ghent this year the service will be a little different, since some of the cars used to operate the scheme will be electric.

Responsible Young Drivers (RYD) encourages young people to be safe on the roads, by organising training sessions and running awareness campaigns throughout the year. But its New Year operation is special, both promoting responsible driving and giving its volunteers -- all between the ages of 18 and 29 -- a chance to use the safe driving skills they have learned.

The service operates between midnight and 6am across Belgium. People who feel unable to drive themselves home can call a central number to be connected with RYD in their region. After checks to make sure the caller's insurance and other details are suitable, a RYD team drives out to meet them.

One volunteer then takes the wheel of the caller's car and drives it home, along with any passengers, while the second volunteer follows in the RYD car.

The service is free, and will pick drivers up from public and private functions alike. However it is intended for people who need help unexpectedly and so cannot be booked in advance.

Within range

In Ghent this year some of the RYD vehicles are being provided by the electric car sharing cooperative Partago, as an experiment to see how they stand up to the demands of the service

"Because the range of electric cars is smaller than that of other cars, we have to be able to exchange one Partago car for another quite quickly," Liesje De Rijcke, coordinator of RYD, told VRT News. "With some explanation and training, that should work."

The limited range also means that the electric vehicles will just operate in the city, rather than serving the whole of East Flanders.

De Rijcke added that RYD expects to be busy tonight. "The number of calls we receive remains more or less the same. Every year we reach around 200 partygoers and bring them home."

Photo: Belga/Nicolas Maeterlinck