Drunk driving remains, for many in Canada, an abstraction. It’s something other people do, and other people get arrested for. The effects are similarly remote: collisions, injuries and deaths that happen to other people.
It’s true that if you don’t drink and drive you’ll never go afoul of the law, and won’t have to face a judge or a jail cell. That’s fine. But no one is impervious to the harm that drunk driving can do. Anyone can be a victim. Indeed, many victims are kids who have never had a drop of alcohol in their lives.
Recently a woman in Saskatoon pleaded guilty to four counts of impaired driving causing death. The collision happened last January, when Catherine McKay ran a stop sign on Highway 11 and crashed into a car carrying a family of four.
The entire family – a mother, father and children aged 2 and 5 – was killed.
No word short of “devastation” can be used to describe the effect of this incident. The 10-year prison sentence she received reflects the gravity of McKay’s crime, and no one is contending that the sentence is too harsh.
The question that remains is: what does the crash, the deaths, and the DUI sentence mean to Canadians, beyond some sad news stories? Is there a lesson, a change, or any benefit at all that can come from the tragedy?
Some road safety advocates think so. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada wants tougher legislation against impaired drivers. Provincial laws are getting tougher by and by – in May New Brunswick’s Department of Public Safety announced that ignition interlocks will be mandatory next year for all drunk driving offenses. Saskatchewan has had an interlock law since 204.
MADD wants better federal laws. In particular, it is stumping for random breath testing, which is employed in many European countries, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
Drunk driving will remain an abstraction for some fortunate people, and a horrific curse for those unfortunate enough to be victims. But the fact that a drunk driver needed to be taken out of circulation for 10 years should remind us how serious this crime is, and how important it is to take measures – including passing better laws – to fight it.