DEADLY CHOICES: Justice must be ‘swift and severe’
Punishment for impaired drivers who kill should be swift, certain and severe, says a mother who lost her daughter in a collision nearly three years ago.
Sandra Green has been lobbying for tougher impaired driving laws since her daughter and son-in-law, Krista and Brad Howe, were killed in an early-morning crash on Red Deer’s south side on Feb. 7, 2010.
Green has partnered with Families for Justice in British Columbia and another group formed after three young men were killed in Beaumont on Nov. 26, 2011, to press the federal government to strengthen jail sentences.
She’d like to see zero tolerance legislation for all drivers so that anyone who is found with a blood alcohol limit of more than zero would be penalized.
This summer, Alberta introduced penalties for those found having a blood alcohol limit of .05, not just .08, as in the past.
“I believe that our laws have to reflect three main criteria — swift, certain and severe,” said Green.
She has discovered that individuals charged with impaired driving are often in the court system for more than a year before they are even dealt with and during that time, life goes on fairly normal for them.
“I believe that the sentencing and the court case should happen immediately after the crash,” said Green.
She believes that if drivers who are charged with impaired driving causing death or bodily harm had to remain behind bars until their case was heard, then the courts would find a way to expedite the process.
The penalty should be the same for everyone who is identified as an impaired driver, no matter their occupation or economic status, Green added.
An impaired driver, even if they don’t kill or injure someone, should have jail time, she said.
Those who return to court with a second impaired driving charge should face an automatic lifetime driving suspension, she said.
Those who ignore this suspension and drive anyway should be thrown back in jail, Green said.
And mandatory minimum jail sentences should be handed out for those who do hurt or kill on the road, Green said.
“For some reason we have set extremely low sentences as a precedent. ... I can’t figure out how that happened or why it happened.”
Severe jail sentences would be a deterrent for people, particularly if they knew that killing someone on the road would result in a life sentence, Green said.
Canadian laws have no minimum sentences for offences of impaired driving causing death and impaired driving causing bodily harm. The offences carry a maximum of life and 10 years imprisonment respectively.
“I think the .05-.08 legislation will have some impact, as it did in B.C.,” said Green, regarding Alberta’s new legislation. “But it is not enough. We need to stop these people from murdering because of a choice they make.”
Green has tried to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. She has not given up on that possibility. She’s written to all of Canada’s provincial justice ministers, federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. She will continue to appeal to them.
As the family approaches the third anniversary of Brad and Krista Howe’s deaths, the impact remains monumental. It is still raw for Green.
She thinks of them first thing in the morning and last thing at night, every day. The children of the Howes are doing well in spite of the huge upset and rerouting of their lives. Maggie is in Grade 2, Molly is in Grade 4, Ashley is in Grade 6, Cory is in Grade 8 and MacKenzie is in Grade 12. Aunt Karla Green was caring for all the children until recently when Ashley went to live with her biological father and Cory is living with Green’s youngest daughter, Janelle, and her husband.
“We celebrate Brad and Krista and honour their memory but we are forging ahead and celebrating new things in their absence and life is not all gloom and doom for us,” said Green.
Green expects the entire family will spend the rest of their lives trying to recover from the loss.