A Cowichan Valley woman who lost her son in an impaired driving accident in Nanaimo believes more education about the dangers of impaired driving is needed and she’s decided to do something about it.Denise Tutte’s son, Zak Andrews, was killed in a head-on collision while driving along the Nanaimo Parkway last October. Andrews had recently returned to the Island from Alberta and was heading northbound when a 35-year-old Nanoose man slammed head on into his vehicle. It was later revealed that the Nanoose man, who also died, was high on drugs and drove wrong way more than a kilometre before slamming into her 19-year-old son’s car. “He was a very funny young man. He had a great sense of humour and it is amazing the number of friends he had,” Tutte told the News Bulletin on the one-year anniversary of the incident. Since her son’s death, Tutte, a realtor in Ladysmith, has been part of a group effort to form a Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter for the mid-Island region.“The reality is more and more people out there are driving impaired, whether it is alcohol impaired or drug impaired,” Tutte said. “It’s very scary and that is why we need to make more awareness in this area and have a strong presence.”
MADD Canada and their local chapters provide a range of support services for victims of impaired driving. They also work in the community to educate individuals about consequences that come as a result of impaired driving.At the moment, the only two MADD chapters on Vancouver Island service the Victoria and Comox Valley regions. Neither chapter serves the Cowichan Valley or Nanaimo regions. Tuttle said MADD has given them the “green light” but in order to get a chapter started for the mid-Island, they need financial donations and volunteers, particularly those who can commit to high-level positions.
“We need four people to commit to being on the board,” she said. “So we need a president, vice-president, treasurer and secretary.”Tutte said educating the public, particularly younger people, about the dangers of impaired driving is critical, especially considering that police resources can sometimes be limited. “I’ve got kids that are between the ages of 17 and 20 and the number of their friends that do take these risks, you do think you’re bulletproof or that you’re not going to get caught at that age,” Tutte said.The federal government is currently considering legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Tutte hopes that if it pot is legalized there is an effort from the government to ensure the public is educated and law enforcement are given the tools to catch those who are driving and under the influence of drugs.Tutte said her son’s death was “100 per cent” preventable and doesn’t want the same thing to happen to anyone else.
“If you’re going to be drinking, just plan ahead. We are not saying don’t drink, don’t smoke pot, we’re just saying plan ahead,” she said. “Just don’t get behind the wheel. Driving is not a right – it is a privilege.”