Manitoba road safety campaign honours victims of impaired driving

Tanya Hansen Pratt still remembers the shock she felt 23 years ago when her brother called to tell her their mother was dead.

“I had no way to process that information,” she said.

Her mother, Beryl Hansen, was walking near their family farm outside Portage la Prairie when she was struck and killed by an impaired driver. She was 59 years old.

Read more: Winnipeg man charged with impaired driving after 7 sent to hospital

Just a few weeks later, Hansen Pratt attended a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada meeting. She now serves as the Winnipeg chapter’s vice-president.

MADD Canada and KAG Canada, a North American trucking company, celebrated the 10th year of their road safety partnership today by placing Beryl’s image on 20 of KAG Canada’s trucks. It’s part of an ongoing campaign that encourages motorists to report suspected impaired drivers by calling 9-1-1.

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Photos of victims from Alberta, Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and British Columbia have also been featured in the past decade.

MADD Canada Chief Operating Officer Dawn Regan attended the unveiling at KAG Canada’s Oak Point Highway building. She said she’s heard from police and the public that the campaign helps take intoxicated motorists off the road.

“The fact is some people may be nervous about calling 9-1-1, thinking it’s not an emergency when it’s impaired driving, but it’s actually a crime in progress, and they should be making that phone call,” she said.

Read more: Off-duty cop busted for impaired driving by Winnipeg police

According to Statistics Canada, impaired driving is the leading cause of criminal death in the country. Since Jan. 1, 2022, Manitoba RCMP have issued 538 criminal impaired driving charges.

Regan says there’s been a recent spike in impaired driving, which she attributes to people going out more as COVID-19 restrictions have eased. With the holiday season approaching, she encourages people to take transit, rideshares, or call sober friends or family instead of getting behind the wheel.

“All those choices exist for us, and there’s no reason to drive impaired,” she said.

For Hansen Pratt, the holidays are a tough time.

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“Every Christmas, every birthday, every anniversary, every major event in our lives is a time when there’s an empty chair,” she said.

She says she continues her work in hopes that no other family will have to go through what she has.

“Some days it’s horribly frustrating and I just want to scream and run away and never say this message ever again,” she said, “but I know it’s worthwhile.”

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