Elaine Commanda points to a picture of her brother, John Commanda, who was killed by a drunk driver 17 years ago. His picture is part of the MADD Canada Memorial Wall

Elaine Commanda has lost three family members to impaired drivers – her grandfather, a cousin and her brother.

“It really affects the community enormously,” Commanda said Friday as she pointed to a picture of her brother, John, who died 17 years ago to the day.

“My brother passed away as the result of someone choosing” to drive impaired, she said as she talked in front of the MADD Canada’s Memorial Wall.

John Commanda was 47 years old.

John Commanda was 47 years old when he was killed by an impaired driver in 2002

“He was very community involved,” she said. “He loved to fish, and he was very close with his family.”

Drivers who are impaired, she said, don’t take into consideration “the innocent lives that can be affected.

“If affects the whole community. Think twice. Don’t fool yourself.”

Elaine Commanda was one of a number of people attending the launch of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Nipissing chapter’s annual Red Ribbon campaign at Northgate Shopping Centre.

A booth was set to distribute information and the distinctive red ribbons, and near an interactive video game showing what it’s like to drive impaired.

Participants could don a set of goggles to simulate what they would see with blood-alcohol levels of .08 and .16 while trying to drive on a road course.

Needless to say, it was an eye-opener for a lot of them.

“I’d have to give it a seven out of 10 for difficulty,” Steven Kerr of Bonfield admitted. “I couldn’t see how fast I was going, and you realize how your ability is impaired by using the simulator.

“That simulator gives you a good example of a situation you don’t want to be in.”

OPP Sgt. Bill McMullen tries out a driving simulator while wearing goggles to simulate what it’s like to drive impaired, Friday, at the Project Red Ribbon launch at Northgate Shopping Centre

OPP Sgt. Bill McMullen gave the simulator a shot.

“It completely alters your ability to see things in real time,” he said.

The 19-year veteran of the OPP said he has responded to numerous impaired driving situations over the years, calling it an “ongoing frustration with respect to people making these choices.”

So far this year, officers with the OPP North Bay detachment have charged 55 drivers with impaired driving. Last year there were 49 such charges to the end of the year.

“People aren’t getting the message,” Const. Shona Camirand said.

She said in the past month, nine drivers have been charged. The youngest was 34, the oldest 66.

“It’s the older generation we need to get the message out to,” she said.

Police officers responding to an impaired driving call can issue an immediate 90-day licence suspension and seize the involved vehicle for seven days.

That’s where the financial cost of impaired starts, because the driver will face the charges for the tow truck and impound fees.

On top of that are increases in insurance, court costs including fines and lawyers’ fees and licence reinstatement fees.

That is if no one was injured. Injuries or death can add substantially to the costs.

“It’s a very high cost” for a bad decision,” she said. “And there are so many options to avoid it. Cab, bus, rideshare, staying over. There are so many options you can consider.”

Brian Gauthier of Allstate Insurance, which made a $1,000 donation to MADD Nipissing, said impaired driving stats are “alarming to us,” particularly this year.

“This is probably the craziest thing you can do in your driving career, or in your life. You are putting others in jeopardy.”

Project Red Ribbon is an annual campaign that runs from the middle of November to January.

“The message is not getting through in general, and what that says to us is that we need to work harder,” Erin Celebre, president of the MADD Nipissing chapter, said.

“This is a decision that will affect your life and the lives of others.”

Source: North Bay Nugget


Last updated on: 2020-02-20 | Link to this post