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Call 911 on drunk drivers

Families for Justice president Markita Kaulius lost her daughter Kassandra to a suspected drunk driver in May 2011.  - Tim Fitzgerald/The News
Families for Justice president Markita Kaulius lost her daughter Kassandra to a suspected drunk driver in May 2011.
— image credit: Tim Fitzgerald/The News

On the corner of Old Dewdney Trunk Road and Lougheed Highway in Pitt Meadows, the first of 14 Report Impaired Drivers billboards was unveiled at a sombre ceremony on a gray Monday morning.

In front, a mother rises above her own personal storm and speaks passionately of the importance of the message.

On May 3, 2011, Markita Kaulius lost her daughter Kassandra in the blink of an eye. The 22-year-old University of the Fraser Valley student was on her way home after coaching youth softball. As she waited to turn left at the intersection of 152nd Street and 64th Avenue in Surrey, her vehicle was struck by an oncoming car traveling more than 100 kilometres an hour.

Natasha Leigh Warren, 34, stands charged with impaired driving causing death, dangerous driving causing death, causing an accident resulting in death, and failure to stop at an accident causing bodily harm.

Warren will be in court June 27 on an arraignment hearing, which also would have been Kassandra’s 24th birthday.

For Markita, the Report Impaired Drivers billboard may come too late for her daughter, but the fight to save future lives is a way to honour Kassandra.

“We’re asking people to be responsible,” says Markita, who holding an 8x11 photo of Kassandra in her hand. “If you suspect someone is drunk, please report it. Everyone deserves the chance to come home safely.”

The campaign encourages drivers to pull over and call 911 to report impaired rivers.

In B.C., impaired driving kills an average of two people and injures 60 every week.

Nationally, drunk drivers kill an average of four people and injure 207 every day.

In 2011, six constables from Ridge Meadows traffic section nabbed and charged 79 impaired drivers from Pitt Meadows alone.

Last year, there were 93 calls to dispatch reporting suspected impaired drivers, of those 26 drivers were stopped.

Since the death of her daughter, Markita has started Families For Justice, a group dedicated to ensuring victim’s families have proper supports in place while faced with the legal battle of those charged in their death of their loved ones.

She was  more than willing to support MADD’s Report Impaired Drivers billboard campaign.

“It’s just another way to honour her legacy. She was such a wonderful person that touched so many lives. I know her friends still grieve, like we do.”

Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters was on hand to lend her support to the initiative. She says despite increased public awareness, too many people make poor decisions and get behind the wheel when drunk.

“Needless tragedies are totally preventable,” said Walters. “Working together we can keep our roads safe, save lives and prevent injuries so that our loved ones come home safely.”

 

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