Impaired driving victims become face of new Sask. awareness campaign

SGI has launched a new campaign against impaired driving that uses the faces and stories of 12 people killed in Saskatchewan as a result of people getting behind the wheel drunk.

12 people killed by impaired drivers will be featured in a series of commercials and ads launched by SGI

Tanner Kaufmann was killed by an alleged impaired driver while out with his dog, Macy May, according to Saskatchewan Government Insurance. (Kirk Fraser/CBC News)

Alyscia Kaufmann said she and her husband, Tanner, always looked for a safe ride home when they'd been drinking.

But on Sept. 4, 2016, he was out for a drive with his dog when he parked the vehicle, stepped outside and was hit by, police believe, an impaired driver. 

Eight months later, his wife said Tanner would be proud to know that his life is being remembered in a new impaired driving awareness campaign launched by Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) at an event in Regina on Thursday.

SGI is replacing the stock imagery used in last year's anti-drinking and driving ads with the faces and stories of 12 Saskatchewan residents killed by impaired drivers.

Real stories, real change

It's a move Kaufmann believes will make a difference when it comes to changing the culture of drunk driving in the province.

Alyscia Kaufmann's husband, Tanner, was killed by driver believed to be impaired in September 2016 (Kirk Fraser/CBC News)

"I feel when you see this ad and you hear these words, how could you not, how could you willingly get behind a vehicle and drive when impaired when you see the real true impact of the loss?"

She spoke at the ad campaign launch, and afterwards said seeing the ad featuring Tanner for the first time was extremely difficult, but that doing nothing would have been harder.

"Standing back and letting other families and other people go through this loss is harder than getting up and putting my pain on display and putting my boys' pain on display," she said. 

How could you willingly get behind a vehicle and drive when impaired when you see the real true impact of the loss'- Alyscia Kaufmann

"My everyday life is without him, so it's not harder than that."

The province-wide campaign will appear on radio ads, billboards, commercials and online from May 14 to June 16. 

According to SGI, more than 600 people have been killed and more 4,000 injured as a result of impaired driving over the past decade.

Lou Van de Vorst's son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren were all killed by an impaired driver (Kirk Fraser/CBC News)

Lou Van de Vorst attended Thursday's event because his son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren were all killed by an impaired driver who smashed into their vehicle.

"I choke up, I catch my breath, I get a little hurt in my heart," he said of when he sees the ad featuring his family.

"I start tearing up and I remember my kids. What else are you going to do?"

Bereaved father wants harsher punishments for drunk drivers

Dave Wensley, whose 17-year-old daughter Sarah was killed by an impaired driver, declined SGI's offer to participate in the event, saying offenders need to be punished more harshly and that an awareness campaign isn't enough.

In his daughter's case, the impaired driver was behind the wheel of a stolen truck that hit the vehicle carrying his daughter and her friends.

Dave Wensley's daughter was killed by an impaired driver. He says he wants more action, not awareness campaigns, from the government.

"My daughter was taken from her family because of a justice system that failed to keep her killers off the street," he told reporters.

Wensley went on to criticize the Saskatchewan Party for allowing former deputy premier Don McMorris back into caucus.

Last year, McMorris pleaded guilty to impaired driving after he was caught with a blood alcohol level between .200 and .210 — two and a half times the legal limit of .08 per cent.

"There is no real consequence," he said. "And there is no real consequence because politicians do nothing except talk and sponsor poster campaigns." 

Wensley said the McMorris case was even worse, considering he was the minister responsible for Crown insurer SGI and the liquor and gaming authority SLGA at the time of his arrest.

"We owe it to ourselves, our loved ones and all other road users to never drive if we're impaired on alcohol and drugs," he said.

"Those are Don McMorris's own meaningless words at last year's campaign and I just heard him this year at this campaign as well. I hope they have more meaning this year."

Strengthened laws

Crown Investments Minister Joe Hargrave said that Thursday's event was about the families and the awareness campaign, which he believes will change attitudes when it comes to drinking and driving.

As for the government's other efforts, he pointed to the strengthening of laws around impaired driving introduced on Jan. 1.

Now, experienced drivers caught for the first time with a blood alcohol level over .04 will have their vehicle impounded for three days. The province also increased the age of zero tolerance to 21 from 19.

With files from Kendall Latimer