Families react to new Saskatchewan impaired driving laws
Alyscia Kaufmann, whose husband Tanner was killed by an alleged drunk driver, says vehicles are weapons
The Saskatchewan government's tougher new drunk driving laws are just the beginning, the families of people killed in impaired driving incidents say.
Louis Van De Vorst, Allan and Melanie Kerpan, and Bonny and Craig Stevenson were on hand at the Legislative Building on Monday as the provincial government unveiled new drinking and driving laws with stiffer penalties.
New drivers aged 21 and under are held to zero tolerance while vehicle impoundment terms have seen increased penalization as well.
New laws just the start
"I really hate the fact that it's such a problem," said Louis Van de Vorst, calling the issue of impaired driving a Canadian issue, not limited to just Saskatchewan.
He added the new laws were just the start.
On January 3rd, Van de Vorst's son, Jordan and Jordan's wife Chanda, were killed when the vehicle they were driving was hit by an impaired driver; their children, Kamryn and Miguire, later died of their injuries in hospital. The driver — Catherine McKay, 49 — was sentenced to 10 years in prison. She was over three times the legal limit at the time of the collision.
"I cannot fathom what other people go through," Van de Vorst said.
"You know, people here do not have a — honestly, you don't have a clue. I don't mean to sound harsh, it's just, it doesn't happen. I didn't have, I didn't understand what really the Kerpans went through and I still really don't. I know what we went through and I know the hurt that we feel."
"This is unprecedented that you would see changes made so quickly after they were first discussed," said Allan Kerpan who — along with MADD — met with government on Oct. 4 to discuss the laws.
Kerpan and his wife Melanie lost their daughter Danille in 2014.
Kerpan, who lives in rural Saskatchewan, said the drinking and driving culture is due to an old boys' club. He said he could name three or four people in his community who drink and drive every day and that he thinks it's the same for every other part of the province.
"This won't stop drinking and driving completely, but it's a good, positive, solid step," Kerpan said.
Bonny and Craig Stevenson said the changes are fantastic. The two parents lost their son Quinn to an impaired driver in 2013.
They applauded the recent anti-drinking-and-driving ads being run by SGI.
"Craig and I have to change the channel [when the ads play]," said Bonny Stevenson.
The couple would like to see more done with the older generation of impaired drivers and would like to see a zero tolerance policy across the board.
Alyscia Kaufmann thinks the consequences of impaired driving causing death need to be more severe.
Kaufmann said she would like to see changes to the Criminal Code of Canada, though she acknowledged it is a federal issue.
"The culture needs to change," she said.
"You're in a vehicle. It's a weapon just as much as a gun is," Kaufmann said.
She thinks people need to plan for a safe ride home before they go out, not when they leave or after the night has ended. She said drinking and driving is a choice and the consequences of doing so are dire.
"It is a decision and it is a choice and the alternative is taking away family members and breaking up those family units."
Kaufmann's husband was struck by an alleged impaired driver and killed last month while he was out training his dog
A poll conducted earlier in the year showed 1 in 5 people thought it was okay to drive impaired if it was a short distance or on a back road.
"Well, those back, quiet roads was a road that Tanner was on," Kaufmann said.
"I think if we show them the consequences and that they are higher, that they do need to take accountability, especially where they are going to go out and have a few drinks."
With files from Adam Hunter