New Brunswick

Victim of drunk-driving crash struggles 4 years later with aftermath

A New Brunswick woman tells her story about being hit by a drunk driver four years ago and how it almost destroyed her life.

Fredericton's Danielle Cole is calling for stiffer penalties for impaired drivers in New Brunswick

Danielle Cole, president of Fredericton's MADD chapter, was driving home from a Christmas party four years ago, with her two children in the car, when she was struck by a drunk driver. (Submitted)

Danielle Cole can still remember everything about the car crash that almost killed her.

Four years ago, the Fredericton woman was returning home from her grandfather's Christmas party in Sussex, when an impaired driver crossed the centre line and crashed into Cole's car.

The vehicle, which was also carrying Cole's two children, flipped and rolled a few times before landing on its roof.

"I still hear my kids crying and being totally helpless," said Cole, who is now the president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Fredericton chapter. 

"I was basically being strangled by my seatbelt for an hour."

Cole said the driver was travelling 140 kilometres an hour in a 90-km/h zone.

The driver died instantly, leaving Cole and her kids to recover from a variety of broken bones, post-traumatic stress disorder and more than 300 physiotherapy sessions.

'Our family should never have been put through this.' - Danielle Cole

Cole had to learn how to walk again and she now suffers from arthritis.

She stayed at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital until Jan. 2 and missed Christmas with her kids, who were three and five at the time.

"I feel like that mama bear ... like, 'How dare you have done this to my kids,'" she told Information Morning Fredericton.

Cole and her two daughters were seriously injured after their car was hit by a drunk driver. (Submitted)
After the crash, Cole received dozens of letters from the driver's family, apologizing for what happened and sharing their feelings of guilt.

"They knew something bad was going to happen," Cole said.

"They just couldn't stop him from drinking and using drugs. His life kind of went in a downward spiral."

Cole has gone on to share her story at schools across the province, at national conferences and with members of Parliament.

More needs to be done

The rear windshield of Cole's car now spreads an important message against impaired driving. (Submitted)
Drunk-driving crashes have a huge ripple effect on families, she said.

Impaired drivers need to face immediate punishment, such as immediate impoundment of their cars, said Cole.

"It's a matter of, when is the offender going to be inconvenienced?" she said.

On average, four Canadians are killed and 175 are injured in impairment-related crashes every day.

Cole said she's hoping New Brunswick will soon implement changes, such as introducing a mandatory alcohol ignition interlock device, modifying the short-term licence suspension and creating a vehicle impoundment program.

"There needs to be dramatic changes in New Brunswick," she said.

"Our family should never have been put through this."  

now