Stricter measures urged to combat impaired driving

Candlelight vigil in Kelowna honouring victims of drunk driving collisions offered support and hope for future solutions

Kim Action (right) lights a candle for Brianna Russell during a vigil on Sunday at the Laurel Packinghouse to honour the victims of impaired driving accidents.

It’s been almost 25 years since Larry Hollier’s uncle was killed in an alcohol-related car crash.

While the passage of time may have eased some of the hurt, the message the dangers of impaired driving sends, continues to ring loud and clear for Hollier.

“Nobody thinks it can happen to them,” said Hollier, the deputy fire chief with the Kelowna Fire Department. “People think they’re invincible, they can have an innocent beer or two, and the next thing you know you have a horrific crash.

“My uncle and his friend both found that out.”

Hollier was one of about 30 people who came together Sunday afternoon at the Laurel Packinghouse for a candlelight vigil to remember and honour those who have lost their lives or have been injured in alcohol or drug-related vehicle accidents.

Largely through the efforts of MADD Canada and the families of the victims, Hollier believes progress is being made combatting the problem.

“Everyone that was there (at the vigil) lost a loved one and are all dedicated towards taking this off the front pages and putting it into the history books for good,” he said.

“In the end, these are not accidents, people make the choice to drink and drive,” he added. “They can be prevented.”

Prevention, said Hollier, will come from implementing harsher penalties.

“We need tougher legislation,” he said. “We need to make it more difficult for people to climb behind the wheel when they’re impaired and keep them from harming themselves and others.”

Like Hollier, Tina Harder is calling for stricter measures to take and keep drunk drivers off the roads.

The vigil’s organizer and board member of the local chapter of MADD, Harder lost a nephew to a alcohol-induced crash in December 2012.

Harder said alerting young drivers to the risks of impaired driving is a vital part of the solution.

“We need to get awareness out there, especially among high school kids,” Harder said. “If you can impress on them when they’re young like that, the dangers of impaired driving, then their habits will change. Their parents also need to be made aware so their kids will be safe.”

Impaired driving continues to be the No. 1 criminal cause of death in Canada.

An average the four Canadians are killed and 175 injured each day in accidents caused by impaired drivers.