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In 1981, comedy genius Dudley Moore played Arthur Bach, an alcoholic millionaire playboy, in the romantic comedy Arthur. In one scene, his fiancée Susan tells the perpetually drunk Arthur, “A real woman could stop you from drinking.”

To which he replies, “It would have to be a real big woman.”

I sometimes feel like Susan at this time of year and think, “A real columnist could convince people not to drink and drive during the holiday season.”

From somewhere out in the distant comes the rejoinder, “It would have to be a real big columnist.”

Well, here’s goes nothing.

Impaired driving is deadly in any season. If you get drunk and crash your car causing injury or death, the date doesn’t mitigate the crime. But there is a peculiar irony in drunk people driving during the Yuletide season. It’s supposed to be a time of goodwill, not a good time to update your will.

What is it about the birthday of Jesus Christ that leads someone to polish off a half a bottle of vodka and get behind the wheel?

The night of Christ’s birth, the angel of the Lord told the Shepherds in the field, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” The angel of the lord did not say, “Fear a lot, behold, I bring you bad tidings, watch out for all the drunks swerving and smashing into things.”

That, however, is where we are. According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) in 2018 between New Year’s and Christmas “there were 285 drunk-driving-related fatalities … there were 10,511 people killed nationwide in drunk-driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third of the crash fatalities that year. The tragedy of these deaths is felt year-round, but for many, most strongly during the holidays.”

In Canada, drunk driving is less common than it was a decade ago, but still a serious problem. According to a Statistics Canada study into circumstances surrounding passenger vehicle fatalities in Canada, “In 2019, coroners and medical examiners reported that just under one-third of drivers involved in fatal passenger vehicle collisions had consumed alcohol, cannabis or illicit drugs prior to the fatal event. Often, the deceased individual was reported to have consumed more than one type of substance. While alcohol (72 per cent) accounted for the majority of these substances, the presence of cannabis (37 per cent) and illicit drugs (37 per cent) was also reported by coroners and medical examiners.”

Nothing puts you in the Christmas spirit like the thought, “that just under one third of drivers involved in passenger vehicle collisions had consumed alcohol, cannabis or illicit drugs prior to the fatal event.” Forget mistletoe. Let’s break out some mug shots and accident scene photos and get this party started.

In Canada, annual anti-impaired driving campaigns are as much a time-honoured tradition as the Christmas tree and eggnog. Ontario’s Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere (RIDE) Program began in 1977. Its goal is to detect and deter drunk driving with spot checks. As of mid-October, the Ontario Provincial Police have laid 8,500 impaired charges (up from 8,000 in 2021). Why do people drink and drive? OPP Sergeant Kerry Schmidt has some observations. “They don’t want to leave their cars. They think they can pace their drinking out. They can’t. If they’ve had drinks they are going to be impaired, it doesn’t matter how much they think they’ve paced themselves. Coffee doesn’t work. Water doesn’t work. People think sleep will wear it off. We stop people at five or six in the morning who are impaired, even though they slept.”

If you are still feeling the need to drink and drive, imagine explaining the phenomenon to an alien.

You: On Dec. 25, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who most Christians believe is the Incarnation of God. Jesus taught his followers to love God. Love your neighbour as yourself. Forgive others who have wronged you.

Alien: Wow. Sounds impressive. How do you celebrate?

You: We drink poison until we lose control of our senses and then race around in giant steel death machines terrorizing the streets.

Alien: (pause) Couldn’t you just stay home and drink the poison? Or take a cab?

You: When you put it like that …

If that doesn’t work, think of Arthur Bach. He has a chauffeur named Bitterman who does most of the driving. Though he is sloshed the entire movie, Arthur has some insight into his condition, “Everyone who drinks is not a poet,” he says. “Maybe some of us drink because we’re not poets.”

Let’s apply a little of Arthur’s introspection to ourselves. Don’t get impaired by any substance and drive. If you can’t go out to socialize without getting loaded and driving – maybe, you should look into that. Maybe alcohol isn’t exactly enhancing your existence. If you are going to drink – admit it and do the responsible thing – don’t drive. Take public transit, take a taxi, walk or sleep at a friend’s house.

Or stay home and watch Arthur. He’s good company and unlike drinking and driving, the movie has a happy ending.