Saskatchewan·Point of View

We can't rely on laws to change Saskatchewan's drunk driving culture

"I’m doubtful that it will be effective in creating the culture shift that is needed, one where calling someone for a ride and leaving your vehicle behind is always worth the inconvenience."

Jason Trinh's father was killed by a drunk driver four years ago

Law changes alone likely won't change Saskatchewan's culture of drunk driving, says Jason Trinh. (Shutterstock)

I think of my mom whenever I'm in a situation where someone might drive impaired. 

I think about how she watched my dad suffer, pinned behind a steering wheel, unable to speak or breathe. How she ran out to the highway to wave down a vehicle to get help, waited what must have felt like an eternity until paramedics arrived and then watched as his life slipped away. 

Those moments play out in my mind as though I was there.

I think of how she lost her husband, business partner, father to her children and partner in life. I especially think about how lost she feels now, nearing retirement after almost 40 years of working twice the hours most do, unable to follow through with the two-person retirement plan she had spent so many years working tirelessly toward.

My dad was killed four years ago by a drunk driver whose blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit. He and my mom were driving north of Regina when the drunk driver's vehicle swerved into their lane.

Khanh, Jason, Lily, Timothy, Tom and Thia Trinh. (Submitted by Jason Trinh)

I walked through the area the next day, debris strewn about in the ditch, medical supplies localized to a very small area. The next day sifting through his mangled vehicle for personal effects, cautiously looking for spots of dried blood so I can avoid letting it catch me off guard. Weeks later, going to his place of work for the first time since the accident only to unexpectedly and overwhelmingly feel the weight of his passing.

I believe that if everyone lost someone they loved to impaired driving, experienced the depth and time of the loss and grief, it might finally cause the cultural shift we need in this province.

Previous law changes haven't been enough

SGI enacted new impaired driving laws on Sept. 1, the third time in four years that we've seen revisions in Saskatchewan. While there's always a chance that these laws will drastically change the way drinking and driving is perceived, I'm doubtful that it will be effective in creating the culture shift that is needed, one where calling someone for a ride and leaving your vehicle behind is always worth the inconvenience. 

In May of 2017 alone there were over 400 impaired driving offences despite changes to impaired driving laws in 2014 and January of 2017. Remember that number represents impaired drivers that were caught by police, not all people that were driving impaired.

Whatever you're after in life, don't allow those around you to take it away from others.- Jason Trinh

We use drugs or alcohol as a means of coping after a rough day at work, celebrating a promotion or birthday, or just as a reason to get together and socialize. You could easily stick out like a sore thumb by turning down a drink when out with friends, unlike having more than a few social drinks and being hungover the next day only to talk about it the following Monday. 

While I don't think this is ever going to change, I think the more people are aware of what families go through, the more it may curb their decision at the right moment and seek an alternative to driving away impaired. 

Think about what your actions could cause

Each year the total number of deaths due to impaired driving increases and with it a greater number of families are affected. A decrease in the annual number is a step in the right direction, but one death due to impaired driving per year is one too many. 

I wish that everyone could be reminded of those that are grieving or have lost someone, their stories and what they've gone through, but a lot of people are out of touch with the reality of what people can go through when you drive impaired. 

This year, on the fourth anniversary of the day I woke up to missed messages, calls and voicemails from my siblings, I took a little more time to remember my dad. I appreciate all that I've learned from him, received from him. I enjoy the time I have with my family that much more.

I think of how much has changed in the past four years. I'm thankful that I inherited my father's entrepreneurial spirit. Without it, I could still be living my life the way someone else wanted me to. 

I've been blessed with a support system full of amazing family and friends that go out of their way to support others when they don't need to. I have also found an opportunity to make a real difference in people's lives, to enjoy my life and to help others enjoy theirs. 

Whatever you're after in life, don't allow those around you to take it away from others.

About the Author

Jason Trinh was born in Regina. He attended the University of Saskatchewan, where he graduated from the College of Kinesiology. He lives in Saskatoon, where he owns and operates a small gym, with his wife and two kids.

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