Families for Justice demands tougher laws as drivers continue to get behind the wheel after drinking

Despite the efforts of police, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Families for Justice and other agencies to educate motorists, many people still choose to ignore impaired driving laws, much to the dismay of the families of victims. (Photo Illustration: KEVIN HILL)

Dare to know how many times police in B.C. issued Immediate Roadside Prohibitions for impaired driving over the past four years? Lamentably, the number is 75,474. Moreover, the number of Immediate Roadside Suspensions, Administrative Driving Prohibitions and 24-hour driving suspensions issued in the province between Sept. 20, 2010 and Sept. 30, 2014 was 119,498, according to statistics from the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles Office.

"This figure is the number of suspensions given out to people who were found to be driving while being impaired and who made the decision to put the public's safety at risk," said Markita Kaulius, founder of Families for Justice.

Her organization counts 85 families among its membership.

"Every single one has had a child or loved one killed by a drunk driver," she said of the group.

Click here to read editorial on drunk driving.

Kaulius is beyond dismayed that despite the efforts of police, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Families for Justice and other agencies to educate motorists, so many people still choose to ignore impaired driving laws.

"These numbers are only the number that they have caught and removed off the roads," she noted.

"They believe for every one impaired driver caught, 75 more get away. This is a staggering figure to know that there are that many people out there driving who are willing to put others at risk.

"We're still losing four to six people per day in Canada." Of those who survive, the average number of people injured each day in Canada because of impaired driving is 190.

"Impaired driving still continues to be a problem and affects thousands of Canadians each year."

Kaulius lost her 22-year-old daughter, Kassandra Kaulius, to a drunk driver in Surrey.

"In 2011, the year my daughter lost her life, there were another 1,074 people killed by an impaired driver, and over 63,000 were injured."

Natasha Leigh Warren, 35, of North Delta pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death, failing to remain at the scene of a crash and driving with a blood alcohol content over the legal limit causing death.

"Since Kassandra was killed, we've lost 3,000 more people," Kaulius noted.

Warren was drunk when she ran a red light at 152nd Street and 64th Avenue and slammed her company van into the driver's side of Kassandra's BMW at 103 kilometres an hour.

Warren was sentenced in Surrey provincial court to 37 months in prison and is also prohibited from driving for eight years. She is up for statutory release on Jan. 15, after serving 24 months of her sentence.

How does Kaulius feel about that?

"We will begin the fourth year of the lifetime sentence that we received of being without our daughter Kassandra," she remarked.

The sentencing was difficult to witness. Markita Kaulius held up a shredded softball uniform that trauma doctors had to cut off of her daughter's mangled body, for Warren to see.

"That's all I have left to hang onto," the grief-stricken mother sobbed. "You left my daughter to die in the street."

Warren had drunk more than a bottle and a half of wine before getting behind the wheel and was driving around Surrey for about 45 minutes before T-boning Kassandra's car, annihilating her. Kassandra was only three blocks from her home and had been returning from playing softball at Cloverdale Athletic Park. Warren got out of her van, walked up to the young woman as she lay dying, and then ran to hide in some bushes, where she was arrested.

"I'm sure you can imagine what being struck at 103 kilometres/hour by 2,000 pounds of steel would do to a person," Kaulius said.

Since her daughter's death, Kaulius and her husband Victor have been lobbying the federal government to change Canada's impaired driving laws.

"Unfortunately, our group grows every month, as we have many other families from across Canada who have joined us, as they too are suffering and are struggling with the loss of their loved one who has been killed by another impaired driver."

Kaulius noted that in 2010/2011, only four per cent of Canadian impaired driving cases that ended in convictions or guilty pleas resulted in a sentence of two years imprisonment or more and 86 per cent of all custodial sentences were for six months or less.

As for the economic cost to taxpayers for that same period, she added, the grand total nationwide - taking into account policing, court proceedings, prison costs, medical and rehabilitative costs, as well as fire departments, ambulance services property damage, lost future earnings, work days lost and related insurance costs - amounted to $84.4 billion, and $6.4 billion of that to B.C. taxpayers.

"These figures are a shocking testimony demonstrating the tragic effects and devastating consequences of drinking and driving," Kaulius said. "The social cost of the crime, great as it is, fades in comparison to the personal loss suffered by the victims of this crime through death or injury.

"It is devastating to their families and others who must live with the aftermath of indescribable pain. There is nothing in the world worse than losing a child or loved one, and knowing that the death was totally preventable."


To date, Families for Justice has collected 83,000 signatures on a petition calling for the charge of impaired driving causing death to be changed to a new category of charge called vehicular manslaughter that would carry a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum sentence of life in prison.

"That's a lot of people we've talked to," Kaulius said. "That's not online signatures."

The petitioners also want motorists convicted of impaired driving to be prohibited from driving for one year, those convicted of causing injury while driving impaired to receive a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison, and for people who flee the scene of a crash - like Warren did - to receive an additional mandatory sentence of two years in prison.

The petition was delivered on Nov. 12 to Langley Conservative MP Mark Warawa and he is expected to present it in the House of Commons.

Kaulius maintains that "from the point of view of numbers alone, impaired driving has a far greater impact on Canadian society than any other crime" and that "in terms

of the deaths and serious injuries resulting in hospitalization, drunk driving is clearly the crime which causes the most significant social loss to the country."

Jasbir Sandhu, NDP MP for Surrey North, noted that according to MADD, a person in Canada could statistically drive drunk once a week, every week, for three years before he or she is likely to be caught.

"That's not acceptable. We need to improve on the laws that are there."

Sandhu noted that Justice Minister Peter MacKay promised more than a year ago that new impaired driving laws would be introduced.

"Fourteen months later, the government still hasn't come forward with anything concrete," Sandhu said. "They say they're tough on crime, then they cut the budget for the RCMP."

Jinny Sims, NDP MP for Newton-North Delta, echoed that.

"Last year, the justice minister promised new laws to crack down on drinking and driving offences, noting that it is among criminal offences causing the highest numbers of deaths in Canada each year," said Sims. "It's been 14 months and I haven't seen any action on that.

"As we've experienced locally in a very meaningful and tragic way, this government is not delivering on the number of RCMP needed to crack down on impaired drivers and to keep streets safer overall," Sims added. "Instead we're seeing quite the opposite - budget cuts to the RCMP."

Sims noted that new laws "won't do much good" if we don't have more police to enforce them.

She said the NDP favours a "twopronged" approach focusing on education as well as sufficient policing levels "to actually enforce the laws."

Nina Grewal, Conservative MP for Fleetwood-Port Kells, agreed that more work needs to be done.

"While great strides have been made to increase public awareness and reduce

impaired driving, the problem remains," she noted. "People continue to drink and drive."

Grewal said she has presented petitions in the House of Commons that hundreds of local residents have signed, demanding tougher sentences. She added that the Tackling Violent Crime Act, passed by the federal government in 2008, brought in stiffer mandatory minimum sentences and made it easier to prosecute impaired drivers.

"I understand that the federal government has been involved in talks with its provincial and territorial counterparts about further increasing penalties for impaired offences," Grewal said, adding that a "working group" has been established to make recommendations on how to proceed.

"As you know, our community has witnessed too many needless, tragic deaths because of drunk drivers," Grewal said. "Kassandra Kaulius immediately comes to mind. I met with her parents -as a mother it just makes me cry to think of someone so young lost just as she was entering the prime of her life."

How it works

The province's Immediate Roadside Prohibition (IRP) program was introduced in September 2010 and features escalating sanctions. Drivers whose breath sample is not less than .05 blood alcohol content are served with a "warn" IRP. The first warning served within five years comes with a three-day prohibition from driving, the second one involves a seven-day prohibition and the third and subsequent warnings within five years result in a 30-day driving prohibition.

Meanwhile, breath samples not less than .08 blood alcohol content are considered fails and result in a 90-day IRP. Same goes for drivers who refuse to blow.

An Administrative Driving Prohibition (ADP) is for 90 days. Instead of using an IRP, a police officer may choose instead to bring the driver to the police station for testing using a Datamaster or Intoxilyzer. If the driver's blood alcohol content is more that .08, he or she may be served with an ADP and also be charged under the Criminal Code. A driver served with an ADP has 21 days before their prohibition begins.

A 24-Hour Prohibition may be served if a police officer has reasonable and probable grounds to believe a driver is affected by alcohol or drugs or if the driver's breath sample is higher than .05.

Source: Ministry of Justice, RoadSafetyBC

Source: The Now Newspaper


Last updated on: 2014-11-29 | Link to this post