Categories: Lifestyle

No help for drunk drivers

Drunk driving can shatter your life and the lives of other people you injure or kill.

What happens to the impaired driver after a horrific collision involving terrible injuries and deaths? What happens to the driver who walks away after a collision that was his fault? What happens to that person who may have killed his best friends, her siblings or complete strangers?

Of course there will be criminal charges and if convicted that driver will be charged under the Criminal Code of Canada. As a criminal, that driver may face incarceration in a prison. But even before that, the person will likely face a loss of employment, loss of insurance and a huge loss of money.

“If you are convicted of impaired driving, your insurance company may drop you. Or if you are able to get insurance, your rates could go up ten times. For high risk insurance you may pay $8,000 to $10,000 per year for insurance,” said Steve Kee, a spokesperson for the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

So now the driver has no vehicle, because the one he was driving was smashed to smithereens along with his passengers; he has no employment, so likely no way to purchase a new car; he has no way to get insurance at $10,000 cost. He may also get emotional support.

Try to imagine that driver’s first phone call made from the RCMP detachment, where he has just failed his third breathalyzer test. Who will that call be to? To Mom? To Dad? To the parents of the woman that just died in the passenger’s seat? How will that call go at 2 or 3 a.m. ?

“I’ve just been in a terrible accident and killed Mary, Judy, Johnny and Fred.”

And once the driver sobers up, what then? Will sleep come easily? What happens when he passes the intersection where the accident took place? There he will see flowers and teddy bears propped against the light standard. It’s improbable that anyone will give the driver a teddy bear no matter how many tears fall down his face. Some time later, he may see crosses in the ditch where the accident occurred. He may count them. The crosses represent the people whose lives were taken.

For a time, there will likely be vigils. Friends and family will gather for those killed in the collision. Candles will be lit. Will the driver attend their funerals? He will not be welcomed.

Who can he talk to? There will be phone call after phone call to lawyers, to police officers and to insurance companies, but there will be few if any calls of a personal nature asking, with some concern, "How are you?"

Mothers Against Drunk Drivers chapter members will not welcome him into their midst.

“We don’t have any drivers at our meetings,” said Edmonton’s MADD chapter president Jason Hills.

Hills parents and an aunt and uncle were killed when a drunken 18-year-old hit the motorcycles the two couples were riding. Hills recently called the Montana police station, which attended the accident 30 years ago. The crash was so horrible, it was still remembered, and he heard what happened to the young drunk driver.

“I was told he became the town drunk. He has not re-offended, but he has never been a productive person either,” Hills said.

It’s likely that young 18-year-old drunk, who had everything before him, could never get away from his disastrous mistake. Everywhere he went he was reminded of that day when four people lost their lives and a family was ripped apart. And for the past 30 years, others remembered too. Thirty years later the police still remember him and so will everyone he knows.

Since 2012 when Alberta got tougher on impaired drivers there were 18.8 per cent fewer incidents reported annually. That’s a significant drop.

RCMP officer Constable Patricia Desmond wonders if the penalties are harsh enough. She has seen the devastation caused by impaired drivers and has absolutely no sympathy for them.

“At times, I think the penalties should be harsher especially if someone is injured or killed. Yes! I think the penalties should be more harsh for multiple offences if they didn’t learn the first time,” Desmond said.

So the questions remain. What happens to the impaired driver after a horrific collision involving terrible injuries and deaths? Who will be there to help that impaired driver through the aftermath?

There is little or no sympathy for people who risk hurting themselves or others by getting behind the wheel of a car when they have been drinking.

Drinking and driving hurts everyone.

Susan Jones: Susan Jones has been a freelance writer for the St. Albert Gazette since 2009, following a 20-year career at the St. Albert Gazette. Susan writes about homes, gardens, community events and people.