It was out of character for Lori, the single, hard working, mother of four. She was always the one ensuring that no one would be drinking and driving.
Imagine what her children, the youngest aged six, felt as their mother was taken away to begin serving her three year jail sentence.
The server who had delivered the shots of tequila and beer offered to arrange a driving service. Lori declined, saying she was calling a friend for a ride. That decision will haunt her for the rest of her life.
Lori made no excuses and was sobbing as she gave her heart felt apology to the family of Erin, the 33 year old nurse whose life she ended. She was also apologizing to Lindsay, Erin’s 31 year old co-worker who will never recover from her injuries.
No amount of jail time could fix this. In fact, the longer she spends behind bars will only increase the harm to the four victims who were not in the crash: her children.
Nothing can fix this.
But this tragic impaired driving event, occurring right here in our Okanagan community, can help fix us.
Impaired driving continues to be a significant road safety problem. Every time the RCMP put their important resources to targeting impaired drivers, another “tip of the iceberg” of offenders are snagged.
For every impaired driving death, there is some significant multiple of impaired driving injuries.
The last bold step our political leaders took to fix this problem, and it was a beauty, was implementing automatic roadside consequences in 2010.
Is it time for another bold step?
How about “Erin’s Law”, requiring bars to ensure that clearly impaired patrons do not get into a vehicle and drive?
Servers could be required to keep track of the number of drinks served. A simply formula, taking into account the amount of time spent in the bar, could trigger the obligation.
A minimum wage earner could follow the patron to the parking lot, warning that the RCMP will be called if they get into the driver’s seat of a vehicle.
Those much smarter than me can come up with the details, but surely a clear screening and prevention procedure can be conceived of. Failure to implement it could be a criminal offense with similar penalties to impaired driving itself.
No procedure would be iron clad. Those intent on driving impaired could simply park off site.
Erin’s Law would have saved Erin. If would help in most situations where well meaning people at the beginning of the night make horrible decisions after they are impaired.
It could be extended anywhere alcohol is consumed. Yes, including your home when friends come over to drink. Would it be ridiculous to make a conscious effort to keep a tally on the number of drinks consumed by those who bring their vehicles?
The most important impact of Erin’s Law would be a change in attitudes. It is clearly insufficient to rely on drinkers to be responsible. We must add responsibility to those who are complicit in impaired driving situations occurring.
Erin’s Law would do just that. The next generation would grow up seeing their parents and the world around them actually doing something to prevent impaired driving, rather than just sitting back and letting it happen.
For more on impaired driving: Drunk killers – the focus should be on impaired driving
William A. Downey
Thank you Paul for another carefully considered article pushing our boundaries towards a safer society. As to “Erin’s Law” – the implementation challenges notwithstanding, we do have a need to find some way to intervene in the deadly decision-making of restaurant/bar patrons. This has been obvious to me since I was driving cab in Kelowna in the early ’70s, when it astonished me to discover that RCMP members were prohibited from waiting outside premises to prevent or prosecute the inevitably, and obviously, impaired drivers upon leaving.
You don’t have to be very smart to figure out that it’s a fool’s game to expect people who have been drinking/drugging to then make sound and well-reasoned decisions. Where we have businesses profiting from encouraging people to drink alcohol, with the well-known effects on their judgement, it seems to me that those businesses do in fact have some duty of care to prevent deadly consequences from that very transaction.
Worthy of note I think that a useful first next step might be a Zero Percent Impairment law, regardless of the inevitable whining and moaning from the hotel/restaurant/bar industry lobby. Other countries can do it, so can we.
Also worthy of note, on the duty of care point, that employers have for some years now been held accountable for the safety (ie, safe travel) of their employees after work-related social events. Seems to me the key case was a situation in Ontario. So we’ve already established the principle, and an associated reasonable-person test.
Paul Hergott, Personal Injury Lawyer
Thank you for your kind support, William.
I wish I had the political savvy to know how to bring these issues to the motivated attention of those who can make it happen…