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A toast to the holidays

Minto Express editorial

‘Tis the season to share a glass or three of holiday cheer with friends and co-workers. People who normally stick to coffee somehow feel obliged to celebrate the season with a brandy, glass of fine whisky, or whatever the host is serving. Those who usually call it quits after a glass of wine end up having two or three, plus an after-dinner liqueur this time of year.

The season seems to beg for sparkling wines and festive alcoholic beverages. Deck the halls, spike the punch, and most important, arrange for a designated driver.

MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) Canada has been partnering with police in communities across this nation for 25 years, to try and end the carnage on our roads caused by impaired drivers. MADD estimates that alcohol and/or drugs are a factor in over half of all fatalities on our roads. Some suspect the percentage is even higher – while testing for alcohol is routine, there is no simple roadside screening device for drugs.

After 25 years, many of MADD’s messages are getting through, at least among younger folk who grew up with the concept of the “DD” and think nothing of sleeping over at the home of whatever friend hosts the party. Sadly, a glance through impaired driving reports in the media indicates that while the kids may have the idea, some of their parents do not.

While people of all ages get arrested for impaired driving, many of the incidents where the driver has a very high blood alcohol level or tries to flee from police involve people old enough to know better.

Some came of age when driving drunk was considered a normal part of growing up. It was just something guys did when they got together. Unfortunately, some are still doing it on a regular basis. A threat to take away their driver’s licence means little – they have not had a licence for years. These are the guys who show up for court on impaired driving charges with the unmistakable odour of alcohol on their breath, and keys to a car in their pocket. The day they get released from jail, they will be driving someone’s car, more likely than not with a blood alcohol count that would raise the eyebrows of even an experienced police officer.

In general, it takes a blood alcohol level of somewhere around .08 to affect balance, speech, reaction time and the ability to operate a car, but these guys can have readings of double or triple that, and not be staggering around. Even though they appear sober, they are, in fact, drunk, and they are risking their life – as well as the lives of everyone else on the highway – when they get behind the wheel.

Then there are the folks who know they have had a bit too much to drink but hesitate to go to the expense of calling a cab, assuming they are fortunate to live in a community that has one. And then there is the problem of arranging a ride the next day to go get the car when they would rather be watching the game, or sleeping off the effects of the party. Easier to just go slow and stay off the main roads, same as they do every year. Except this might be the year their luck runs out.

Getting caught in a RIDE check is the kindest thing that could happen.

Celebrate MADD’s 25th anniversary by making this the year to start a new tradition of planning ahead to get home from the holiday party safely. Make a deal with your teenager to play chauffeur for the evening, or hire a neighbour kid who could use some extra Christmas shopping money. Turn the occasion into a mini-holiday by booking a room at a hotel or bed-and-breakfast within walking distance of the party. Take a page out of your child’s “prom” book and get together with friends to share the expense of a real limo – a way to make a festive occasion even more festive.

However you calculate the cost, it will still be cheaper than an ambulance ride, not to mention the thousand-plus dollar fine and years of sky-high insurance premiums. If you are lucky. Let this be a toast to a safe holiday season. Drive sober. And support MADD Canada’s 2012 Red Ribbon campaign.

- Special to The Minto Express

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