Tougher laws needed

The decision to grant full parole to convicted impaired driver Chad Olsen in Red Deer last week must have the families and friends of the couple whose deaths he’s responsible for reeling.

Krista and Brad Howe were killed in a motor vehicle collision in February of 2010, leaving behind five children. It was and remains a horrendous loss to the community, not to mention the devastated circle of family and friends they left behind.

But in a decision handed down last week, the Parole Board of Canada said Olsen would be given full parole. There are some conditions attached to the decision, including one that Olsen must abstain from alcohol and attend psychological counseling. But ultimately, the fact he was granted full parole just two and one-half years after the deaths of the Howes is astonishing. It’s simply unfathomable just what the members of the parole board were thinking. How could two people’s completely preventable deaths be held in apparently such little regard? Where are the consequences to such reckless and irresponsible behavior that led to the tragedy in the first place.

Especially considering they left behind five children who now face each and every family occasion, celebration and milestone – graduations, marriages, children – without the love and support of their parents?

By now, Canadians are growing weary of hearing – time and again – how lax the penalties for impaired drivers are. Or how inconsistent they are – some seem to be dealt with more seriously than others. It must be exasperating for organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) who work to educate the public about the dangers of mixing alcohol with getting behind the wheel.

Those who work so hard to spread that message must feel deflated when news like this hits – if there is such little recourse for getting behind the wheel in an intoxicated state, will people truly think twice before they do it?

More and more, the victims of crimes are the ones who appear to be paying the price for the tragedies in their lives that are needlessly caused by others. Why the reluctance to send a clear message, and seriously deal with convicted impaired drivers?

This past June, the provincial government introduced a ‘tougher’ stance on those caught driving while drunk. Timelines were tightened up when it comes to immediate license suspensions and vehicle seizures, for example. But people who drink and drive are clearly in another headspace. They don’t believe that what they are doing could potentially have disastrous consequences.

Until those convicted of drunk driving causing death start paying for their crimes in ways that are truly impactful, it’s doubtful much will change.