This province can tout the toughest administrative penalties in Canada for impaired driving, but its courts are lax on the crime, according to a new victim’s group.
On Sept. 10, 2010, Donna Dorman’s 31-year-old son Mike was killed in a car accident involving a driver who was allegedly impaired.
Mike was a passenger in the vehicle, which lost control and hit a concrete pole. He succumbed to severe head and internal injuries.
The driver and another passenger have recovered from their injuries.
A year later, the Abbotsford mom wants to know why there have still been no impaired driving charges laid.
Police told her the driver’s blood-alcohol level was double the legal limit.
Recently, Dorman joined a new group in Surrey with a goal of expediting charges against drunk drivers who kill. She was referred to the group by the RCMP.
“People are waiting too long for something to be done,” said Dorman, noting one member of the new group has been waiting since 2008 to see justice for their loved one who was killed.
Dorman said the group is researching sentencing for impaired driving.
It found that although the maximum penalty for impaired driving causing death is 14 years in prison, “nobody ever gets that.”
In fact, in B.C. a common sentence would be two years less a day.
The most high-profile recent example was that of Carol Berner, who in November last year received two and a half years for impaired driving that resulted in the death of four-year-old Alexa Middelaer. Her lawyer planned to appeal.
Markita Kaulius of Surrey started the group for the families of impaired driving victims. Four months ago, her 22-year-old daughter Kassandra was killed by an allegedly drunk driver.
Kassandra had been attending UFV in Abbotsford, studying to become a teacher. She was coming home from a ball game in Surrey, waiting to make a turn at an intersection, when an allegedly impaired driver ran a red light and struck her vehicle on the driver’s side at 100 km-h.
Kaulius was a longtime volunteer with Langley victim’s services.
She has accompanied police when they notify next of kin. She said it did not prepare her.
“I thought I knew what it was like for a family. When it hits your own family, it’s 1,000 times worse. Unless you’ve lived in the situation, you really don’t know what it’s like.”
Kaulius started the group for those who have lost loved ones to impaired driving, and there were 13 families represented at the first meeting. They agreed to support each other, including accompanying one another to court.
Their primary goal is to change the law. She said in discussing impaired driving and the courts, the most common expression has been “joke.”
“These are serious offences,” said Kaulius.
“But they are sentenced to two years less a day.
“Sometimes people are given a $2,000 fine and a 90-day driving suspension. It’s an insult to your family – families are devastated by this.”
“We’re not supposed to bury our children. We’re not supposed to go and identify them. We’re not supposed to decide whether to bury or cremate them. On Mother’s Day I picked out the clothes she would be cremated in.
“For someone to get two years less a day, or a $2,000 fine, for killing someone, is just wrong.”
Kaulius looked into Mothers Against Drunk Driving, but decided it wasn’t going to be the vehicle to fight laws the way she wants.
While she supports the province imposing tougher roadside sanctions on those found to have been drinking and driving, she wants to lobby federal and provincial officials for tougher laws.
“I don’t know yet what will be accomplished, but I can’t stand by and do nothing,” she said. “There has to be a change.”
The driver of Mike Dornan’s vehicle was supposed to be one of his best friends. His mother has not spoken with him since the crash.
“I think about the guy and I feel bad for him. He’s got to live his life knowing that happened,” Donna Dorman said.
“I can forgive him.
“I’d like to talk to him. But at the same time he needs to suffer the consequences.
“It may not change his actions if there are no consequences.”
The support group will meet next on Oct. 4. To attend, or for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.