By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Don’t drink and drive, four words that when placed together, create a powerful message.
But for those who do not heed this message, their actions can have irreversible consequences.
Michelle Crabb is the director of education and awareness for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Durham and one of the many affected by someone else’s actions.
While Crabb is dedicated to spreading MADD’s anti-impaired driving message, it is a role she came to have out of necessity, rather than choice.
In April 2007, Crabb’s 20-year-old brother was killed while riding in a vehicle driven by his best friend, who was impaired.
During the official launch for the Durham Regional Police’s 2017/2018 Festive RIDE Campaign in Oshawa on Nov. 15., Crabb spoke candidly about how this event changed her life.
“I didn’t choose to be a member of MADD Durham Region. Unfortunately, someone made that choice for me,” she told those in attendance.
Although her brother’s death happened 10 years ago, Crabb says she recalls that night vividly.
“I remember very clearly the two officers who came to my door at 3 a.m. to tell me there was a collision. I also remember one of the paramedics who was first on the scene who came with me to the tree where my brother was killed every single year to place flowers there because it affected him personally,” she says.
Although she is very open in speaking about her brother’s death, Crabb says she is unsure if most people can truly understand how she, or others who have lost of loved ones to impaired driving, truly feel.
Perhaps most frustrating for Crabb is every year, even with amount of public awareness and education, those deaths are still happening.
“It’s very unfortunate every year we have to stand here and tell the public to make better choices.”
During the 2016 Festive RIDE Campaign, Durham Regional Police handed out 99 drinking and driving charges. In addition, 105 drivers received a three-day license suspension for having a blood-alcohol level in the warning range and 25 G1 and G2 license holders were charged with breaching no alcohol conditions.
While any amount of charges is discouraging, Crabb asked those on the RIDE Campaign team to know they are making a difference.
“I know the dedication it takes, the time you are away from your friends, your family, and your loved ones. I know you see the stats every year…and wonder why you do this when people don’t seem to get the message,” Crabb says. “Please continue to fight because you are catching them. Our numbers may be high, but it is because you are on the roads and you are saving lives.”
While the devastating outcome of impaired driving to those who have lost a loved one is especially apparent, that damage has a ripple effect as well.
Brock Bodashefsky is an advanced care paramedic with Durham Region who throughout his nearly 10-year career, has been called to hundreds of accident scenes. However, six months into his career, one call changed his life.
“If I close my eyes long enough. I’m there. I’m back at the scene of the fatality caused by an impaired driver. Dark, foggy, snow on the ground – a warm December night. I remember everything about that night that took place nearly 10 years ago.”
For Bodashefsky, it was the type of experience where “you can not take back what you saw or what you felt.”
“The sights, the sounds, the screams, the sirens.”
Following the incident, the then-rookie paramedic didn’t return to work for two weeks and even began to wonder if he really wanted to ever return to the job.
Eventually, with the help of a solid support system, Bodashefsky did return to his duties. However, he says many of his colleagues haven’t been as fortunate, and continue to suffer from PTSD due to traumatic experiences.
“They put their life, body, and mind on the line to serve the community.”
Urging the public to be “first responders this holiday season”, Bodashefsky says everyone has a role to play in preventing impaired driving.
“Please prevent the event. Drink responsibly and enjoy a safe and happy holiday season.”
DRPS Chief Paul Martin urged all residents to make the right choice if choosing to drink.
“Our message is simple. Plan ahead this holiday season, and do not put yourself in a position of great risk,” Martin says. “Do the responsible thing, call a cab, call a friend or use one of the many designated services or transit options available.”
Martin gave a stern warning to those who do choose to drink and drive, explaining even if they do not cause a collision, their life will be impacted deeply.
“If we charge you with impaired driving, expect to shell out over $10,000 in lawyer fees and court fees as you fight the charge. Expect to read your name on our website and possibly local newspapers and get ready to deal with complications of having to find a ride to work every day after your license is suspended,” Martin added.