We’re challenged here in the Columbia Valley when it comes to enjoying a bit of holiday cheer, and the many cheers that tend to go along with it.

For those who dare to venture beyond the walking distance of their neighbouhood for a night of clinks and drinks lies the dilemna of getting back home at the end of the night. Public transit doesn’t run after dark and the distance between our neighhouring communities can mean a hefty bill after the taxi driver drops you back at home, not to mention having to retrieve your car the next morning.

Maybe one reason that folks tend to chance impaired driving in these parts is because we live in a rural setting. It’s always the same rationale — ‘Oh, I’ve only had a few’ or ‘I really don’t feel drunk’ or ‘I haven’t had that much’ or ‘I’ll stick to the back roads’ — the list seems to go on and on. And it’s not to say that these people don’t have the highest of intentions at the beginning of the night, having convinced themselves they won’t have anything to drink, or will indulge in only one. But how easily one turns into three or four, then whammo — illegal blood alcohol levels.

The biggest problem, because most people don’t intentionally want to break the law and put themselves or anyone else in harm’s way — is lack of planning. The best bet in our region is to arrange a designated driver ahead of time, or —if you’re the one holding the party — organize one person who is willing to shuttle everyone else home in exchange for all the leftovers, or the promise of having the favour returned. Asking to stay the night doesn’t hurt either. Who doesn’t love waking up to a roomful of hungover friends who didn’t seriously injure or kill themselves or anyone else the night before because they were willing to relinquish their keys and sleep on a couch?

No one should have to suffer the loss of a loved one when it comes to such a preventable crime. Yet, according to ICBC, drinking and driving is still the leading criminal cause of death and remains one of the leading causes of fatal collisions. So while you may be making the right decision, someone else isn’t. It’s up to each and every one of  us to watch out for each other and prevent any accidents before they happen.