British Columbia

How are you getting home tonight? Driving after drinking isn't an option, police warn

Police around the Lower Mainland will be setting up check stops for impaired driving on New Year's Eve.

Police are setting up check stops across the Lower Mainland and say drivers should cab or take transit

A woman approaches a taxi in Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhood on Tuesday. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

As revellers get ready to ring in the new year, Markita Kaulius will be thinking about how she could have been celebrating the night with her daughter Kassandra.

Instead, she's mourning her daughter's death over something she says was entirely preventable. 

On May 8, 2011, Kassandra, then 22, was driving home from softball practice when she was T-boned by a drunk driver at a Surrey, B.C., intersection three blocks from her home.

The car slammed into the driver's side at 103 km/h and sent Kassandra's car flying above the median. 

"It's something that we live with still every single day, eight years later," Kaulius said Tuesday. "There's not a day that we are not thinking of her or missing her."

Kaulius is urging people to have a plan in place for getting back home from New Year's Eve festivities.

"If you have been drinking or indulging in drugs, please do not get behind the wheel of a vehicle. Everyone deserves the right to get home safely."

Markita Kaulius's daughter, Kassandra, was killed in 2011 by a drunk driver. (CBC)

Police setting up check stops

Const. Richard Wright, a spokesperson with the Surrey RCMP, says police around the Lower Mainland will be setting up check stops Tuesday night for impaired driving.

The province's CounterAttack program includes the use of drug recognition experts and standardized field sobriety tests.

Officers can suspend driver's licences for from 24 hours to 90 days and impound vehicles for up to a month, depending on the severity of impaired driving.

Wright says people should figure out beforehand how they'll be getting home. SkyTrain and bus service is free overnight.

"We encourage everyone to use transit as much as possible," Wright said. "We want to keep the roads clear because it is [a] torrential downpour outside."

Wright says people should dress appropriately for the heavy rain in case they get stuck waiting for a bus or cab outside.

Jasbir Nijjar, general manager at Black Top Cabs, says the company is prepared to meet the increased demand.

The company's full fleet of 300 cars will be on the road and extra staff will work in the dispatch room, he said.

To avoid waiting, he suggests booking ahead online or with an app.

Police are encouraging people to take transit or cab home from New Year's Eve festivities. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Call volunteer drivers

Operation Red Nose will also be running in a number of municipalities across B.C. 

The volunteer program offers free rides to people who don't feel fit to drive.

The Langley-Surrey program, however, is cancelled this year due to low volunteer turnout.

Up to 20 teams have participated in the past, but only three teams were confirmed this year, said Jennifer Kingwell, a spokesperson for the group. 

"The last thing we wanted to do was cancel," she wrote in an email. "We did not want to be in the situation where we had to let people down because the community was relying on Operation Red Nose as an option for tonight."

The service is free to use in other municipalities on the ICBC app and by visiting the website.

With files from Andrea Ross and Timothé Matte-Bergeron