By Mark Dreger
Victims and surviving family members of people injured or killed in drunk driving accidents gathered in Kelowna’s Laurel Packinghouse Sunday for the MADD Central Okanagan Chapter’s fourth annual candlelight vigil.
“It’s a place for victims and survivors to come together to get some support and comfort, but most importantly it’s to pay tribute to their loved one that they’ve lost,” said Jillian Phillips, Victim Services Manager of Western Canada.
“I just hope that when people see this and see the message that they never have to know what that feels like; they never have to come to an event like this because it is honestly the most soul-destroying thing to lose your loved ones through something that’s entirely preventable.”
Canada ranks No. 1 among the 19 wealthy countries in the world for roadway deaths attributed to alcohol. On average just under four Canadians are killed and roughly 175 are injured each day due to alcohol and drug related crashes.
RELATED: MADD AGM
“I personally want there to be more justice,” said Debbie Dalke, who attended to remember her grandson who was killed by a drunk driver. “I want there to be stiffer penalties; it’s just not fair.”
Dalke’s 18-year-old grandson Travis was killed in Edmonton. He was only two minutes away from his home when he was struck by a drunk driver going over three times the speed limit.
“I just wish that more people would attend,” Dalke said. “I know there are lots of people out there and it would be nice for them to come and maybe just have that comfort and feeling that there are others out here.”
While the staggering statistics may be disheartening to some, Phillips says there are places to go for those grieving loss. ‘
“I have met people when I attend these that maybe didn’t know about the national conference that we hold for victims and survivors each April,” Phillips said. “And there’s a few people here today that after we made contact last year came to that last April and they all say how much it’s helped them.”
When asked what others should do when they see others about to drive after drinking, Dalke didn’t hesitate to express the seriousness of drinking and driving.
“If you’re a true friend you would do your best to get them to not drive if they’ve been drinking,” Dalke said. “Take away their keys, threaten you’re going to turn them in, call the cops on them or something. Something has to be done about it; there’s just too much of it going on and they’re not accountable for their actions and it’s so sad.”
According to MADD Canada, crashes involving alcohol and/or drugs are the leading criminal cause of death in Canada. In 2012, 1,497 (58.8 per cent) of crash deaths involved drivers who had some alcohol and/or drugs in their systems.