Next to the 204 Street overpass median, as cars slowly filter through a Langley RCMP road check, Markita Kaulius stands beside a poster displaying 40 pictures of smiling faces — all victims of impaired drivers — drivers who never should not have been behind the wheel.
“This boy here was killed a year ago yesterday. His mother has lost 100 pounds … she can’t sleep, can’t eat, can’t work. She’s just been devastated,” says Kaulius, president of Families for Justice. The group works to support families who have lost loved ones to drunk drivers, while advocating for tougher penalties for those convicted of impaired driving.
“This is Brad and Krista Howe from Red Deer, Alberta. (Their deaths) left five kids orphaned. The guy served seven months in jail.”
It’s the kind of pain Kaulius and her husband know first-hand.
“That’s my daughter there,” she says quietly. Kassandra Kaulius was struck and killed in Surrey in 2011 by a drunk driver, while she was on her way home from a softball match.
She was studying to be a teacher.
Kaulius was at the road check alongside ICBC and Langley RCMP Traffic Services to help ensure sure more families don’t suffer the same way.
“She was 22 years-old, had the world in front of her,” says Kaulius, pausing.
“Should have had.”
As she speaks, the head of Langley RCMP Traffic Services, Sgt. Gerard Sokolowski, walks over to tell her they’ve handed out a 24-hour suspension. The tow truck, lights flashing, arrives after only about an hour of checking cars.
He says they’ll see a thousand vehicles before the end of the night, an important reminder for local drivers heading into the holiday season.
“The enforcement is basically ramped up, and we’re out with a lot more members because we’re looking for those people who are coming home from parties,” says Sokolowski.
“We’re hoping that people who are going out tonight have fun, but make sure they have a plan to get them home safely.”
Kaulius says although fatalities from impaired driving have dropped, overall drunk driving statistics are on the rise.
“It’s the number one criminal cause of death in Canada right now and we’re losing 1,200 to 1,500 people per year.”
“Every one of those deaths was preventable if only somebody had been responsible enough to have a plan in place before they took the first drink — whether it was a designated driver, a party bus or Operation Red Nose.”
Families for Justice has collected more than 50,000 signatures to petition the federal government to impose harsher penalties on impaired drivers. The petition can be found on their Facebook Page.
Operation Red Nose Langley can be reached throughout the season at 604-532-0888.
In all, Langley RCMP stopped 1,700 vehicles during the nine-hour blitz.
They handed out four 90-day roadside suspensions for drunk driving, a single one-day suspension for drugs and arrested one person and seized drugs and weapons from others, said Langley RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Holly Marks.
One man was arrested and charged with driving while prohibited as well as a concealed weapons offence, for having a cache of large knives with him.
Twenty six drivers who were given a roadside breathalyzer test, passed.