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Dear Joanne,

My husband and I like to socialize and have a few drinks during the holiday season. There are plenty of roadblocks up these days, but he thinks it's ok to have a few and then get in the car and drive. I don't agree. The straw that broke the camel's back came when he drove home after drinking at his office Christmas party last week. He was so close to our place he could have walked. How do I reason with a man like that?

Too Much Holiday Cheer

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Being too drunk to walk home is no excuse for driving instead. And tell your husband that consuming even one unit of alcohol and operating a vehicle qualifies as drinking and driving. Whether he's within the legal limit is irrelevant. We all know even a little booze in the blood stream can affect judgment.

Take St. Nick for example. I often wonder if he's been into the rum and egg nog before making his rounds. There's no other way to explain the myriad of times we've all received Christmas gifts clearly intended for someone else. A knit tea cozy instead of the Prada toque you asked for? Old Spice instead of Aqua di Parma cologne?

Boozing and cruising along sounded like a good idea when Ike Turner and his band recorded Rocket 88 in 1951. And in 1944, when Fred MacMurray's character in Double Indemnity drinks a bottle of beer while sitting in his '38 Dodge coupe at a drive-in restaurant. But things change. Unless it's a cafe mocha or wheatgrass shot, it's no longer good hospitality to offer your guests a drink or two for the road.

Drinking and trying to decipher whether you should drive is tricky business. A few years ago in British Columbia, even our highest-ranking provincial politician had trouble with it. He plead guilty to driving under the influence (DUI) after a breathalyzer test and a night in jail. Sometimes it's the other way around, though. Remember Rene Levesque? He was premier of Quebec when he fatally hit a drunk pedestrian in 1977.

You're right about the roadblocks. And this time of year, even regular patrol officers are looking for the telltale weaving and bobbing of impaired drivers. If pulled over, your husband, like many people, probably thinks he can refuse a breath test. He's right. Then he'll only be charged with refusal. Which happens to carry the same penalty as impaired driving. Both are criminal charges. How about stalling tactics to buy time to sober up? A friend who is a cop says many try, and none succeed. It takes considerable time for the body to rid itself of alcohol. If you've got excuses, save them for the judge.

If your husband receives a DUI charge he shouldn't expect to avoid conviction on a technicality - not even with a good lawyer and bags of money. The courts seem unsympathetic toward those who believe it's their right to risk the lives of others by driving impaired. There is more court history for impaired driving than for murder -- perhaps because drunk driving is the number one criminal cause of death in Canada.

As usual, some questions come to mind. Is any of this your fault? Are you validating your husband's behaviour by getting in the vehicle with him? Maybe he's trying to bypass the "for better or worse" section of your vows, and accelerate to "til death do us part." Who knows? But one thing is certain - he's daft for getting behind the wheel, and you're crazy if you join him. How much responsibility will you take if he hits a pedestrian on the way home?

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When it comes to Christmas cheer, most people know: one is good, two is too many, and three is never enough. Zero-tolerance is the best way to go when it comes to automobiles and alcohol. Drink what you like, then take a ride in one of the most highly recommended vehicles this holiday season. I've always been partial to the Toyota Prius in yellow, but really any taxi will do when you've been drinking.

Your Globe

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