Nearly seven years since his three children, Daniel, 9, Harrison, 5 and Milly, 2, were killed by a drunk driver, Edward Lake was found deceased at his home in Brampton, Ont., the day after Father’s Day. He died by suicide.
“When you lose somebody in an impaired driving crash, the pain never goes away. It stays with you forever. And I know full well that that’s what happens,” said Carolyn Swinson, director of victim services with the Toronto Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
Swinson’s father was killed by an impaired driver and years later her beloved son Rob also lost his life to a drunk driver.
“We just have to learn different ways of dealing with it. We learn different ways of coping. We learn that sometimes we have to go and find a quiet space because we need it, because we need to cry,” she said, adding, “even after many, many years the pain never goes away. It never goes away. It’s always with you. We just have to learn to live with it.”
Swinson said despite education and public awareness campaigns against impaired driving, “the numbers have been going up.”
The crash that claimed the lives of the Neville-Lake children in September 2015 took place in Vaughan.
Global News reached out to York Regional Police (YRP) to find out whether anything has changed on the roads since then.
“So far in 2022, we have laid more than 950 charges related to impaired driving. This is a 20 per cent increase from the same time in 2021, and a 15 per cent increase over stats from the last five years. Our citizen-generated calls about impaired driving have increased 21.38 per cent over last year and 3.77 per cent over the past five years,” detailed data shared by YRP.
In an email, a spokesperson for YRP added, “We remind those who choose to drive while impaired by drugs or alcohol that not only are police officers watching for them, our citizens also refuse to tolerate this behavior.
“Anyone choosing to put others at risk by driving while impaired should expect to be caught and charged.”
“About ten people every single hour in Canada are either charged with impaired driving or have their license suspended because they’ve been driving impaired. That’s almost 240 people a day. That’s ridiculous,” said Swinson.
“People just make bad choices when they’ve been drinking and driving or when they’re using drugs and driving and we should have a zero tolerance policy,” said Daniel Brown, Toronto defence lawyer.
Brown pointed out zero tolerance is the case for “younger, novice drivers” and noted he would like to see that applied to all drivers.
“There’s so many options available for people to find alternative ways home, designated drivers and so asking someone at the time they’re driving to judge their sobriety is a really impossible thing and rather than have that situation, we should take it away from them altogether,” he said.
In the wake of Edward Lake’s death, Canadians have expressed frustration over impaired driving penalties in this country, calling for harsher sentences on social media.
Brown explained that while no sentence for somebody who takes the life of another person will ever feel right, there are many factors that contribute to the decision.
“When we look at somebody’s criminal conduct, we have to measure it against what other judges have done in other cases in the past and what society demands of those judges. The judge can’t only be focused on retribution. The judge also has to be focused on rehabilitation and reintegration,” he said.
“Marco Muzzo, no matter how long his sentence was going to be, was going to have to rejoin society again in the future and the judge had to be focused on that, not to impose a sentence that would be absolutely crushing and prevent him from reintegrating in society,” he added.
“One of the things, as a victim of impaired driving crashes, that makes people so angry is that every single person who dies or gets injured in an impaired driving crash knows that it’s totally preventable, that people have to take the responsibility for themselves, that if you’re going out drinking, taking drugs, for goodness sake, don’t get behind the wheel of the car because the consequences can be so tragic,” said Swinson.