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Column: Celebrate. Have fun. But be safe

An opinion piece on impaired driving.
impaired driving

For many people, Christmas is their favourite time of the year.

They love the decorations, the music, the gift giving and everything else associated with the weeks before Dec. 25. Enjoyment can extend to festivities and celebrations.

Christmas celebrations are, not surprisingly, a favourite part of this time of year for me. I had a damn good time Saturday at the St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation’s Festival of Trees. Proceeds went to a wonderful cause, too. The food, drinks and people were terrific. It’s all I would want in a Christmas celebration.

I wasn’t the only one who had a good time Saturday night, either.

I know this won’t be the last fun time out with friends in the next few weeks before I get on the plane to head out to B.C. for the Christmas holidays.

But when you celebrate this season, be sure to do so safely.

For those of you who are looking forward to Christmas, hopefully you’ll emerge from this season with happy memories. Don’t allow it to be sullied by something that could have been prevented, such as an impaired driving arrest, or something worse, because you decided to drive when you could have found other ways home.

And the punishments for impaired driving are pretty stiff. The fines are high. The cost of liberating your car from a vehicle impound lot aren’t cheap, either. The legal fees are significant. The demerits mean you’ll be paying more for your insurance in future years. You won’t be able to drive for a considerable amount of time. And if you wind up getting in an accident, well, that’s much worse.

Living in a small city like Estevan, it’s not hard to find a safe ride home. Now that we’re into winter, it might be a little too frigid to walk home, especially if you have to walk across the city, or if we have one of those extreme cold or wind warnings that we’re known for in December.

But you can still hail a cab (think of it as part of the expense for a fun night out) or get a ride home with a sober friend. If you live out of town, then perhaps a night at a friend’s place might be in order.

Police typically ramp up their enforcement efforts against impaired driving at this time of year. You’ll see them out conducting check stops to find those who are driving impaired, whether it be due to alcohol or drugs. They’ll check hundreds of drivers in a night and they’ll be at high-traffic areas. If you drive while impaired, it’s going to be tougher to evade the long arm of the law.

(Note: if you do see a check stop, please don’t post it on social media. You might be thinking you’re doing a favour for others by helping them avoid the short traffic lineups, but you might be helping an impaired driver). 

The need to celebrate safely extends to New Year’s Eve. Dec. 31 might not be the grand excuse to celebrate that it was 30 years ago, but there will still be people out having a good time.

Impaired driving has long been a problem in Saskatchewan. Our rates have often been the highest in the country. We’ve had too many fatalities over the years, too many people whose lives have changed dramatically in an instant, either because they made the wrong choice or they encountered someone who made the wrong choice.

We’re getting better. The situation has been improving in Estevan over the past few years, although we occasionally get reminders that the issue remains.

The story is the same elsewhere in Saskatchewan.

Having a punishment for those who record the “warn” level if their blood alcohol content is between .04 and .07 was a step forward. More people decide to stop after one drink if they know they’re driving home.

I’ve had some friends who have been arrested for impaired driving over the years. They aren’t bad people, but they recognize it was the biggest mistake they’ve ever made. And they’ve resolved to not allow it to happen again.

I’ve never been arrested on a drunk driving charge, and I don’t think I’ve ever driven while over .08.

So let’s be smart and safe. If you choose to drink and have a few, be smart enough to find a safe way home. After all, it sure beats the alternatives. 

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