OAKVILLE, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - April 18, 2013) - Russ Stewart doesn't remember the car crash that changed his life forever.
When he awoke from a month-long induced coma, he learned his car had been hit by an impaired driver whose blood alcohol concentration was more than double the legal limit of .08. He had suffered a brain injury which resulted in memory loss and the loss of peripheral vision. He had also suffered a crushed leg and arm, broken ribs, a ruptured spleen which had to be removed, and broken teeth.
"It is hard to accept the pain and grief that I and my family have endured when we know that this crash did not have to happen," Russ said.
As a Constable with the RCMP, Russ had seen and dealt with the carnage caused by impaired driving. Now, he has a different type of insight into the tragic effects of this entirely preventable crime.
On April 25, Russ will join a small group of MADD Canada representatives from around the country in Ottawa. During National Victims of Crime Awareness Week, they will meet with select Members of Parliament to share their perspectives and to talk about what is needed to reduce the tragic impact of impaired driving in Canada.
"It's so important that our leaders and those who assist them in establishing policies and law see that there are real people, real victims, behind all the statistics and the numbers," Russ said.
Joining Russ from PEI will be Gloria McNeill. Gloria too knows the devastation that results from impaired driving. Her son, Adam, was killed in an impaired driving crash in 2001. He was just 23 years old.
For Gloria, each crash which kills or injures another victim, brings the sadness of knowing what that family is going through and the frustration that people are still getting behind the wheel impaired despite all the laws and penalties, all the enforcement, all the education.
"Every single impaired driving crash can be prevented," Gloria said. "We have seen some improvement over the years, but there is a still a long way to go. We can't look at the set of laws we have now and say we have done enough. We need to move forward with other measures which have worked in other places."
"The Province is doing its part," Russ added. "The PEI Government recently hosted a roundtable to look at what more it can be doing. But there needs to be action at the federal level too. That's why we want to visit with MPs during the National Victims of Crime Awareness Week and talk to them about this issue."
MADD Canada representatives will speak with MPs about a 2009 report released by the Federal Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights called "Ending Alcohol-Impaired Driving: A Common Approach". The report contained a number of recommendations to reduce impaired driving in Canada, including: tougher sanctions for repeat impaired drivers, tougher sanctions for those with BACs in excess of .16% BAC, and random roadside breath testing.
MADD Canada and its representatives are hoping that the visit will lead to renewed interest in the Committee's report and action on its recommendations, with the end goal being a reduction in impaired driving rates in Canada.
The report was accepted by the government in principle, with Federal Justice Minister and Attorney General Rob Nicholson noting that the report "will greatly assist the Government in its ongoing efforts to make the impaired driving provisions of the Criminal Code more effective and to contribute to reducing the carnage on our roads caused by alcohol-impaired drivers."
Despite the acceptance of the report in principle, and the undisputed need for more to be done to stop impaired driving, there has been no move on the part of government to implement any of the recommendations in the report.
In the year that report was released, 1,074 people were killed in impaired driving crashes and 63,338 were injured. With those numbers as a basis, MADD Canada estimates more than 4,100 people have been killed and more than 240,000 injured in impairment-related crashes since the report was released and April of 2013.
MADD Canada's analysis of random breath testing, based on the experiences with that measure in other countries, indicates that random breath testing would prevent more than 200 impairment-related crash deaths and more than 14,000 impairment-related crash injuries each year.
"We are not saying that new measures will prevent all impaired driving crashes, but they will prevent some of those deaths and injuries," said MADD Canada National President Denise Dubyk. "There is more we can be doing to stop the carnage and loss caused by impaired driving. Random breath testing and the other recommendations in the report will have a significant impact on the reduction of impaired driving in Canada. We need to move forward on this."
About MADD Canada
MADD Canada (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) is a national, charitable organization that is committed to stopping impaired driving and supporting the victims of this violent crime. With volunteer-driven groups in more than 100 communities across Canada, MADD Canada aims to offer support services to victims, heighten awareness of the dangers of impaired driving and save lives and prevent injuries on our roads. For more information, visit www.madd.ca.