MADD Central Okanagan Chapter hosted its annual candlelight vigil in Kelowna on Sunday in honour of those who have been killed in impaired driving crashes.
The vigil gave victims’ family and friends a special place to remember and pay tribute to all those lost to impaired driving in a safe environment.
The chapter’s treasurer, Scott Chambers, was the MC for the vigil held at Parkinson Recreation Centre. Chambers said MADD’s primary focus is not only to support the victims of impaired driving but to also bring awareness to both the dangers of impaired driving by alcohol and through drugs, such as marijuana.
“The focus is definitely shifting to younger communities with the legalization of cannabis,” said Chambers.
“The younger population is more likely to be impaired by cannabis than alcohol. The drunk driving awareness has done what it’s needed to do and there’s a stigma attached to it, but the same stigma is not there for cannabis-impaired driving or any drug-impaired driving.”
The vigil featured speeches from Chambers, RCMP constable Leslie Smith and other chapter members, as well as poetry readings and the song Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton, was played during a period of remembrance.
Those in attendance were also allowed to light a candle in honour of a loved one who had either been injured or killed at the hands of an impaired driver.
“To have a vigil is an emotional time for me, but I hold it together,” said Eva Gainer, MADD victims service volunteer.
Gainer lit a candle for her husband Don and twelve-year-old son Brian, who were killed by an impaired driver on July 23, 2000. Gainer and her close friend were also injured in the crash. Gainer’s friend was left partially paralyzed.
“We are trying to get the message out to people that it’s not okay to drink and drive and it’s not okay to be high and drive,” said Gainer.
“By driving impaired you are putting not only yourself, but other people’s lives at stake, either resulting in death or catastrophic injuries. We just hope that through MADD we will get that message across to stop impaired driving.”
Every year, on average, more than 1,000 Canadians are killed as a result of impaired driving crashes. RCMP constable Leslie Smith said she has seen a ton of support from the public in helping the RCMP catch impaired drivers.
“We are seeing great support from the public by way of them reporting any suspicious activity,” said Smith. “All we need from you is the direction of travel, the type of vehicle and the license plate. We get a lot of those calls during a normal day of work and we will follow-up on that individual to ensure that they are safe and that the road is safe.”
With Thanksgiving holidays fast approaching the RCMP would like to remind the community to take alternative methods of transportation and that drinking and driving is never an option.
To report an impaired driver contact the Kelowna RCMP.