Impaired driving charges down slightly, but Calgary family still warns of dangers

May 7, 2000, was a day that changed everything for one Calgary family.

“There is nothing, absolutely no words that can describe the feeling of the police and the coroner’s office coming to your front door and telling you that a loved one is not coming home again,” said Denise Dubyk.

Dubyk lost her son-in law, Darryl Ray that morning. The 32-year-old was a passenger in a pickup truck that slammed into a parked van around 2:00 a.m. on the 4500 block of 1 Street S.E.

Darryl was killed instantly, while the 22-year-old man who was driving the truck under the influence of alcohol survived with minor injuries.

The crash is just one example of the hundreds of lives lost due to impaired driving in Calgary. According to police, over a 10-year period from 2008 to 2017, 574 people died in a collision involving a legally impaired driver and nearly 8,000 were injured.

Alcohol impaired driving charges are down slightly in the city as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic according to the Calgary Police Service (CPS), but other types of offences have seen significant increases.

“Our drug impaired driving files for 2020 were almost double what they were in 2019,” said Const. Dan Kurz with the CPS Drug & Alcohol Recognition Unit.

“We know that the drop in drinking and driving is strictly because of restrictions, not a change in behaviour or social stigma attached to impaired driving. We wish it was that, but we’re realistic in the fact that we know when everything opens up again, our numbers are likely to tick back up.”

PLANNING AHEAD

Although the crash involving Darryl Ray occurred just over two decades ago, the Calgary family says its feels like it was just yesterday and are continuing to remind others about getting home safe.

I’m not saying that we wallow, I’m not saying that we feel sad for ourselves, but it’s every day you remember Darryl,” Dubyk said.

“This never has to happen, because someone drove impaired, lets all be safe and let your family come home – please don’t drive impaired.”

Darryl is remembered for his love of sports and his caring personality that would make anyone feel welcomed into his home. He left behind his beautiful wife Tamara, along with his sons Joshua, now 23-years-old and Dylon, who is 28-years-old.

Pictures honouring Darryl’s life if now all the family has to be remember him, but the Calgary chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is continuing to provide support.

MADD Calgary President Rick Lundy says there is no excuse for driving under the influence and many cost-effective options to get home safe. He notes that impaired driving charges were on the rise before the pandemic by about 19 per cent in Canada with almost 9,000 people per year charged in Alberta alone.

“Although we’re seeing a minimal decrease in impaired driving, we have to remember that bars and restaurants were closed and people aren’t gathering as much, so the real question is: what’s going to happen after COVID?”

“Make sure that you’re not thinking about a plan to get home that while you’re drinking, have that arranged beforehand because once you start drinking, you make bad decisions a lot of the times.”

As the weather improves and more people frequent bars and restaurants, police are again reminding Calgarians to prepare themselves.

“It’s been a rough time for everybody so it’s going to be a time where people want to go out,” Kurz said.

“But we still want people to make those safe decisions on getting home, so whether it’s the tried-and-true designated driving or we’re utilizing public transit, uber, taxi cabs, all those things.”

Kurz adds the checkstop enforcement in Calgary is back to business as usual after it was briefly delayed for police to work on safer public health guidelines to conduct alcohol breathalyser tests.

Alberta implemented tougher impaired driving laws on Dec. 1, 2020, outlined in Bill 21 (The Provincial Administrative Penalties Act), which introduced significant fines up to $2,000.

That means that first-time offender will stay out of the criminal system, but will likely receive an immediate $1,000 fine, a 30-day vehicle seizure and mandatory impaired driving education, as well as existing measures such as a license suspension.

A new adjudication branch called SafeRoads Alberta will also allow drivers to pay their fees online, request more time to pay their penalty or dispute their immediate roadside sanction or vehicle seizure.