Markita Kaulius knows all too well the pain of losing a loved one in a crash caused by impaired driving.
In May 2011, her 22-year-old daughter, Kassandra, was killed after a van driven by an impaired driver slammed into her car as she waited to make a left turn at the intersection of 152nd Street and 64th Avenue in Surrey. She was on her way home after coaching a softball game in Cloverdale.
“Our entire family has been affected by Kassandra’s death. This is, without a doubt, a parent’s worst nightmare that you never wake up from,” Kaulius said Thursday at a Vancouver press conference launching the annual summer CounterAttack campaign ahead of the Canada Day long weekend.
She joined ICBC, the provincial government and police in urging British Columbians to plan ahead for a safe ride home when their summer activities involve alcohol or drugs.
“Impaired driving is 100 per cent preventable. Please don’t drink and drive as everyone deserves the right to get home safely at the end of the day to their family and friends,” Kaulius said. “Don’t let another family lose their loved one.”
On average, every Canada Day one person is killed and 190 are injured in 730 crashes in the province, said Lindsay Matthews, ICBC vice-president of public affairs. Most of those crashes, and the resulting injuries, occur in Metro Vancouver. An average of 140 people is injured in 460 crashes on Lower Mainland roads on Canada Day alone.
Every year, on average, 17 people are killed and 860 are injured in 1,400 impaired-driving related crashes in the Lower Mainland.
“Everyone has a role to play to make B.C. roads safer and we’ll continue to invest in road safety to help reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities,” Matthews said. “If your summer activities involve alcohol, leave your car at home and plan ahead for a safe ride home.”
And while impaired driving remains the leading cause of criminal death in Canada, and is in the top three contributing factors for fatal crashes in the province, B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said the number of impaired drivers on the road appears to be on the decline.
“Research completed a year ago tells us that on the streets of British Columbia less than one in 20 drivers now tests positive for the presence of any alcohol in their system,” he said. “That’s half the number that we saw in 2010 when it was one in 10. Clearly the don’t drink and drive message keeps getting through as new generations take the wheel.”
However, there are still many drivers that aren’t getting the message. Last year, police in B.C. issued 9,100 90-day immediate roadside prohibitions and 520 criminal code convictions to impaired drivers.
Farnworth had a warning for those who choose to get behind the wheel while intoxicated.
“Drinking and driving in this province is not acceptable under any circumstances. We have more police in the road, penalties are stiffer, enforcement is out there,” he said. “It’s summertime. I hope people enjoy themselves this summer but consider yourself warned — if you drink and drive you are going to get caught and you will be punished.”