Impaired driving cases still rising 3 years after Neville-Lake children killed, York Regional Police say
'It doesn't seem to us that people are necessarily getting the message,' police say
It's been three years to the day since a drunk driver killed four members of the same Vaughan family, but police say reports of impaired driving incidents in the community have only increased.
"We are not giving up," York Regional police said Thursday in a news release, although this year alone they have investigated nearly 1,000 impaired driving cases involving alcohol or drugs and have laid more than 1,200 charges.
The crash on Sept. 27, 2015, killed three young children in the Neville-Lake family, Daniel, nine, Harrison, five, Milly, two, and their grandfather Gary Neville, 65.
A minivan carrying the family members was hit by a speeding SUV that blew through a stop sign on a rural road north of Toronto. Two other family members, the children's grandmother and great-grandmother, suffered serious injuries in the crash.
Since the incident, police opened a Safe Roads hotline called Your Call, which community members can use to report someone they suspect of driving under the influence.
According to Insp. Cecile Hammond, more and more people are reporting impaired drivers, something she says has caused frustration throughout the community.
"I would say they would certainly be outraged," she said.
"It's certainly not getting any better," Hammond said. "It doesn't seem to us that people are necessarily getting the message,"
Since the tragedy, police have been working closely with the children's mother, Jennifer Neville-Lake, to spread the message #notonemore.
They've also created post cards with drawings from friends of the Neville-Lake children to remind people of the potential cost of impaired driving.
"The children draw pictures to commemorate their friends," said Staff Sgt. Sarah Riddell. "It's heartbreaking."
But with the legalization of weed coming on Oct. 17, police fear the number of impaired drivers will continue to increase.
"It's an alarming trend that prior to the pending legalization of marijuana we continue to see so many impaired driving offences," Chief Eric Jolliffe said in the release.
The legal consequences of an impaired driving charge can include an automatic licence suspension and in some cases can mean longer suspensions, large fines and even jail time.
Marco Muzzo, who killed Neville-Lake children and their grandfather, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in March 2016 after he pleaded guilty to four counts of impaired driving causing death and two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm.
He's eligible to apply for conditional release in November.
'I don't think people will ever get the message'
"It is frustrating because I don't think people will ever get the message, to be honest. Everyone has that mentality that it's not going to happen to them until it does," said community member Max Narbutas.
Although he moved to Alberta last week, he lived on the border of York Region for years. Like many community members, he took to social media to express his frustration over drunk drivers in the area.
"I think when people start to drink, so many of their inhibitions go out the window," he said. "It's like people don't think of the legal consequences."
With files from Amara McLaughlin