Over the course of a year, researchers from the University of Regina and Community Safety Knowledge Alliance (CSKA) travelled across the province speaking to families directly impacted by impaired driving.
“As they shared with us, we felt it. We felt it from them, we felt it in their homes,” CSKA lead researcher Dr. Jody Burnett said.
They interviewed 13 families.
“We got a huge glimpse, a little snapshot of what that was like and it was overwhelming – overwhelming for sure.”
Research showed sudden, traumatic death impacts everything from health and relationships to employment and finances.
And often overlooked – having to deal with the criminal justice system and its lengthy process.
“Not knowing what to expect and having certain expectations and really being let down,” Burnett said.
“A number of them expressed that the justice system was far more focused on the offender’s needs and their rights. Victims felt excluded from the process,” University of Regina Research and Graduate associate dean Dr. Nicholas Jones said.
Saskatchewan has always been known for having some of the highest rates of impaired driving and impaired driving causing death in the country.
There were 39 alcohol- or drug-related deaths in 2017, and 57 the year before. MADD Canada said this type of research is critical moving forward.
“It’s not an area that has been studied in academics previously and unfortunately that means we don’t have a lot of data. We can’t go to government and say, ‘Here are needs of victims of impaired driving,’” Saskatchewan regional manager for MADD Canada Michelle Okere said.
Families also called for more long-term support through police-based victim services such as funding grief counselling and advocacy.
It’s a message that could serve as a catalyst for change.
“Some of them that we talked to really felt the services provided ended too early and didn’t go on long enough,” Jones said.
“There is no timeline for addressing these things.”
The lack of services means MADD Canada has been leaned upon to provide similar services.
“We can’t do everything, but if we collaborate with one another, especially with the police, knowing when people need to access our services, we can all do better,” said Okere.
It wasn’t easy getting through the interviews with the families, said Burnett, but it was something that needed to be done.
“I think they were raw, I think they were real, the responses that we got – and that really helps appropriate the work that needs to be done going forward and the attention it really needs to have,” Burnett said.
Both Burnett and Jones said this is just the beginning when it comes to this type of research and believes a similar study on a national level would be extremely beneficial in slowing down the number of lost lives on Canadian roads.