Denise Tutte and Ladysmith RCMP Staff-Sgt. Ken Brissard have both lost families members due to impaired driving, or suspected impaired driving. (Mike Gregory Photo)

Shared tragedy fuels drunk driving awareness effort

Ladysmith RCMP Staff Sgt. Ken Brissard and local resident Denise Tutte have both lost loved ones

Ladysmith RCMP Staff Sgt. Ken Brissard and Denise Tutte conclude an emotional conversation on impaired driving and share not only a hug, but also the unfortunate experience of burying a loved one.

Denise’s son Zak Andrews died instantly in October 2015 after an impaired driver drove the wrong way on the Nanaimo Parkway and struck his vehicle head-on.

Brissard’s son-in-law Austin MacDougall was killed by a suspected impaired driver while out riding his bike in Edson earlier this year on July 5. The case is before the courts.

“I was forced to walk in the shoes of Denise and her family and thousands of other families who have taken that walk because of an impaired driver,” Brissard said. “ To say it was an eye opener, that’s an understatement and my opinion on what are policing priorities should be, when we’re able to, certainly changed – there was a paradigm shift.”

Following his return to work this summer, Brissard held a meeting with the detachment where he laid out his priorities.

“I think it hit home for them to see the guy that’s normally growling at them now with tears coming out of his eyes – they have families too,” Brissard said.

In 2015, there were eight charges for impaired driving under the criminal code and 36 provincial Immediate Roadside Prohibitions. The following year the numbers increased to 13 and 35 respectively. This year there have been 28 CC charges and 84 prohibitions.

“The high percentage of the impairs that are apprehended are self-generated — the members are hunting and they are sneaky…” he said, adding that officers are also fair about visiting local establishments and letting people know they are out enforcing.

“That’s what people expect of us is to be sneaky and catch bad people so the members are very aggressive about hunting them before they cause an issue.”

Similar statistics were not available for Nanaimo where a memorial sits roadside for Tutte’s son.

“It bothers me that it was ruled accidental because it’s not accidental when somebody makes that decision,” she said.

The driver of the other vehicle that killed Andrews later died in hospital and the accident was attributed to driver error and drug impairment.

According to a five-year average of motor vehicle fatalities collected by the province, alcohol contributed to 20 per cent of all deaths while drugs was a factor in seven per cent.

Tutte said she’s concerned that the impending legalization of marijuana could mean an increase in impaired drivers if more resources aren’t made available to RCMP to increase enforcement.

She’s currently looking at how to bring Arrive Alive, Drive Sober, an Ontario charity that’s logo features a martini glass and marijuana leaf, to B.C.

“We need to educate the youth that you are still impaired under marijuana,” she said. “My daughters are at the age, late teens early 20s, and a lot of their friends do drive high because they do assume that they can’t be charged.”

Ladysmith RCMP currently have two specially-trained Drug Recognition Experts who are called out in the event that a driver is believed to be impaired by narcotics.

“My members know this, if you stop a vehicle, even it’s self-generated, and you suspect there’s narcotics on board, marijuana or otherwise, and there’s an impaired driving history, I will pay the overtime for whomever to come out,” Brissard said.

If overall rise in impaired driving continues it also might just be a case of good old fashioned police work.

“I wouldn’t say it’s on the rise. I’m an optimistic person. I think it’s still through education and enforcement,” Brissard said. “The increase is solely because of my members’ passion at keeping our streets safe and keeping our people safe.”

Tutte’s message is simple: ‘plan ahead.’

“Have your designated driver because that knock on the door in the wee hours of the morning, nobody wants to face that,” she said.

“I lost my son who had children and will never know their father. The driver had children. It snowballs and effects others and this time of year when you’ve been through that you’re painfully aware of that empty seat.”

Just Posted

Earthquake on top of highway closure a wake-up call for Island’s West Coast

“When someone says, ‘Be prepared for 72 hours,’ that means exactly that: be prepared.”

Dozen Metchosin ‘barn cats’ on the hunt for new homes

Broken Promises Animal Rescue hoping to re-home feral cats

VIDEO: James Bay wolf released into wild of western Vancouver Island

Conservation officers confirm wolf is from Discovery Island

John Lennon’s psychedelic Rolls-Royce on display at Victoria’s Royal BC Museum

The classic car has been a favourite for Beatles fans from Victoria and internationally

Coulson Aviation 737 tanker crews back in the air fighting Australian bushfires

CEO walks Australian crash site, pays tribute to fallen flight crew

VIDEO: As 106 reported dead from the coronavirus outbreak, countries look to evacuate citizens

Canada is warning its residents to not go to Hubei province at all

Majority of Canadian boards had no female members in 2016 and 2017: StatCan

Statistics Canada says 18.1 per cent of director seats were held by women in 2017

First-place Canucks beat Blues 3-1 for ninth straight home win

Miller nets pair as Vancouver defeats Cup champs

Swapping grape varieties can help winemakers adapt to climate change: UBC study

Report says 56% of wine-grape-growing regions would be lost if global climate warms by 2 C

Alberta premier wants feds to approve Teck mine for benefit of First Nations

Kenney: ‘Surely [reconciliation] means saying yes to economic development for First Nations people’

Police search for man who went missing from Vernon hotel

Jay Rosenberger, 38, was last seen Friday

Filming for Resident Alien begins in Ladysmith

Aliens and excitement take over the streets of Ladysmith during new TV series

Women assaulted in pair of weekend attacks in Port Alberni

RCMP say no reason to suspect attacks are related, but suspects still at large

Most Read