etc. 

Much like Santa, tragedy doesn’t take time off at Christmas. The past few weeks alone have brought news of brutal stabbings, school shootings, journalists taken hostage in Syria, U.S. soldiers bitten by monkeys in Afghanistan. Our government is ambling ever closer to the so-called “fiscal cliff.” Conspiracy theorists claim the Maya calendar has Dec. 21 penciled in as the end of days.

If anything, bad news seems to be working overtime at the end of 2012. So it’s nice to find a little holiday cheer in our inbox. Last week we received word from AAA that its annual Operation Tipsy Tow would be kicking off in time for all the Christmas gatherings, New Years Eve festivities and ironic Maya Apocalypse parties dominating Missoula’s immediate future. The service offers holiday revelers a free—and confidential—vehicle tow for up to 10 miles from Dec. 14 to Jan. 1.

AAA’s release quoted a 2011 report from the Montana Highway Patrol revealing that, last year, “nearly 36 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes were under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both.” And while most folks are responsible enough to designate a sober driver or call a cab, there’s no denying Missoula and Montana have a fairly prominent drunken-driving culture. Fatal crashes involving intoxicated drivers are actually on the rise in 2012.

Now, thanks to Tipsy Tow, we can have our nog and get the car home too. AAA is offering the free tows in partnership with Red’s Towing, Summit Beverage and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana. Just plug 800-AAA-HELP into your cell phone’s contact list.

It’s slightly discouraging that, according to AAA, only 50 people statewide used the service last year. Missoula should be downright embarrassed considering the city reported 66 DUI arrests during the 2011 holiday season. Here’s our reaction in Twitter lingo: #facepalm.

But maybe the number of people using the service will grow this year. We hope so. Taking a break at the bar from visiting relatives or celebrating ancient apocalyptic predictions at the bottom of a beer glass can make for a merry holiday season, provided the end result isn’t more tragic headlines.

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