Candlelight vigil held for those affected by impaired driving

EDMONTON – Everyday, four Canadians are killed by an impaired driver. Over the past five years, 471 people have been killed in a collision involving an impaired driver in Alberta alone.

“It’s just a selfish, selfish choice,” said Gillian Phillips, a spokesperson with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Phillips lost her 16-year-old daughter in a collision involving a driver who had been drinking. Phillips took the time to honour her daughter during MADD’s annual candlelight vigil, held for those affected by drinking and driving.

“Christmas is a really hard time for families to get through. So we hold this before Christmas in hopes that they get some support and strength through it and it’s a tribute to our loved ones,” Phillips said.

A tribute that Phillips says, sadly, continues to grow.

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“This year in particular, just with one family we have 22 people coming. So every year that our numbers grow it’s so disheartening.”

Every year in Canada, about 70,000 people are injured or killed in impaired driving related collisions. In Edmonton this year, impaired driving was a factor in 15 per cent of injury collisions and 33 per cent of fatal collisions.

While impaired driving is a year-round issue, enforcement is ramped up during the Christmas season. 157 checkstops were held in Alberta Saturday night, as part of a Canada-wide enforcement initiative aimed at taking impaired drivers off the road.

“Sometimes we deal with third, fourth, fifth, even sixth time offending drivers. It’s just ridiculous,” said Corporal Chris Little with Strathcona County RCMP.

READ MORE: Christmas checkstop campaign in full swing throughout Capital Region

“Depending on the night, we’ll come in with usually eight, maybe 10 a night,” added Constable David Green with the Edmonton Police Service’s Impaired driving Countermeasures Unit.

“The ultimate goal is zero impaired driving charges and zero impaired driving offences and occurences across the country,” Green said. “But unfortunately, we do catch people.”

Green says it’s frustrating that some people simply aren’t getting the message, but police will continue to remind people that driving while under the influence of alcohol will not be tolerated.

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“Take a cab, call a friend, make your arrangements. Whatever it is, stay wherever you are. There’s no justification for doing it. Put me out of business, I don’t want to be catching people.”

But until people get that message, MADD says it will continue to offer support to those families who have suffered through the loss of a loved one.

“Everybody wishes they don’t have to come to something like this. But they do appreciate the fact that they’re coming to be surrounded by people who have walked through what they’re going through and that they can gather strength from each other.”

Statistics show that one in five drivers involved in a fatal collision in Alberta have consumed alcohol. Men between the ages of 18 and 24 are the most likely to get behind the wheel impaired, according to statistics.

With files from Slav Kornik, Global News.

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