Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, December 21, 2020.

During the first two weekends of December, the Kamloops RCMP took 17 impaired drivers off the road. That’s 17 potential disasters waiting to happen which were averted. It’d be silly to think they were the only ones; these were the ones that got caught.

At the same time, it’s impossible not to shudder when you read stories of people whose lives have been forever changed due to someone else’s drunk driving. Those who are still around to tell the story, that is. According to ICBC stats, 67 people are killed on average in British Columbia due to impaired driving. Across Canada, four people are killed daily because someone chooses to drink or use drugs and then drive.

I know we’re somewhat numb to numbers below hundreds these days, given the ongoing pandemic, but that’s 67 lives ended because someone had made the decision to drink and drive.

I love driving at night because the streets are quiet. This time of the year especially: there’s Christmas lights everywhere which makes it magical. The thought that all of it could become a nightmare because of someone’s irresponsible behaviour is a sobering and infuriating one at that.

Even more infuriating is the thought that it could be a repeat offender, because if you peruse related news stories, you’ll see a pattern: inebriated driver crashes into another car, or hits pedestrians. People die or get severely injured, yet somehow the impaired driver gets a light sentence, and a few months later or a year at most, they are out driving impaired and, you wouldn’t think possible but yes, they walk away with a slap on the wrist a second time. If anyone can explain how that is possible, I’d be curious to hear.  

I hope people will choose the better path this holiday season; it’s yet another small effort to add to many others that keep us all safe more so during the pandemic. Fundraisers such as Operation Red Nose that offers rides home to those who indulge have been grounded this year due to COVID-19, so it’s up to each of us to plan ahead and also plan to stop anyone who might be leaning towards ‘Oh, but I am OK to drive…’

Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) Okanagan chose to show the shocking yet real face of what drunk driving looks like. Kelowna drivers get to see a car that’s been in a horrible crash, causing a fatality and which is now on public display. The consequence of someone’s irresponsibility – tough to look at but a necessary and sobering reminder. We could use a few more in other cities. When lives are at stake, no extra reminders are too many.

Someone commented on a news story about a repeat offender drunk driver that we should seek justice rather than punishment for such drivers; that perhaps people who choose to do this have their own issues and we ought to help them through that. What about the consequences of their actions? The word ‘preventable’ should not ring so hollow…

People die or are condemned to a life of long-term health issues caused by that one person who chose to drink and drive and what we see time and time again is in fact injustice for victims and their families, and for surviving victims. That is not just, ever.

It is true that punishments can only go so far and revenge is not what feeds justice. However, a stricter legal system that could save lives and education at all levels are badly needed. If nothing ever changes, we’ll be stuck with learning that a drunk driver gets away with a 90 day sentence and a 2-year driving ban after killing another driver.

But that’s on the wish list and out of our hands. What’s doable though is pledging to never get behind the wheel after drinking, and seeing that our family and friends don’t do it either. Educating our kids from when they are young, by example especially, that sober driving is the only way to drive.

This holiday season, please be responsible.

Have a merry and safe Christmas!