EDMONTON — It’s something those with Mothers Against Drunk Driving don’t wish upon anyone – having to cope with the loss of a loved one who was killed at the hands of an impaired driver.
“The ripple effect is immense,” said Gillian Phillips, victims services manager with MADD’s western region. “It’s not just the immediately family, it’s the surrounding family.
“I can’t even begin to tell you how it affects and impacts so many people.”
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On Sunday, MADD’s Edmonton chapter held its annual candlelight vigil, which gives families and friends a chance to come together to remember the victims of impaired drivers.
“It’s for, unfortunately, all those people that it’s too late for, that it actually has happened to their family, that they got that knock on the door, that their life was ripped apart and they’ve lost a loved one or their loved one has been injured,” Phillips said.
READ MORE: 2 dead, 3 injured after suspected drunk driver flees Edmonton-area checkstop
Teresa and Robert Croteau know all too well the pain of losing a loved one; their 19-year-old son, Robin, was killed in March 2012.
Teresa and Robert were at the bar with their son for a family gathering the night of the collision. The Croteaus left before their son, but he assured them he would get home safely.
“He was just going to take a cab so he just hugged and kissed me and he said goodnight. And that’s the last one, the last hug and kiss I just got from my son,” Teresa said.
At around 2 a.m., they got a phone call saying Robin had been in an accident and he was in the hospital. By the time they arrived at the University of Alberta Hospital, Robin had died.
“My world collapsed,” Teresa recalled. “He was lying there. I hugged him. He didn’t hug me back, he was so cold.
“I’m trying to wake up myself, I’m trying to pinch myself… Because this is a nightmare.”
Robert said their son was a passenger in a vehicle being driven by someone who had been drinking. They didn’t make it one block from the bar before the vehicle hit a parked car.
“Before you make that decision think about what you’re going to be doing and how it’s going to affect not only others, but yourself as well, for the rest of your life,” Robert said.
“We think about Robin every day and we deal with it every day.”
On average in Alberta, one in five drivers involved in fatal collisions has been drinking prior to the collision, according to statistic released earlier this year by the Alberta government. This compares to an average of about one in 20 drivers involved in injury collisions.
READ MORE: Thousands convicted of impaired driving in Alberta each year: province
Deaths and injuries from impaired drivers are 100 per cent preventable, Phillips said. She wants people to think about how they’re going to get home before they head out for a night where drinking is involved.
“It’s one of the most selfish things that you’ll ever do is to be impaired and then to get into your vehicle and then to drive, because we all share those roads,” she said. “It’s preventable 100 per cent. It’s completely senseless.”
With the holiday season in full swing, Phillips has one simple message about drinking and driving.
“Just don’t do it. Please don’t do it.”
Police urge drivers to call 911 if they suspect an impaired driver is on the road.