How can people continue to drink and drive after hearing these stories?

You may have seen on Facebook or in the news the deeply tragic story about a fatal crash that killed a Calgary woman Sunday August 12, 2012.

Kelli-Jo Smith, 38, died after the Ford pickup her husband was driving was hit by a Mercedes about 3:15 am Sunday. What makes the already tragic story even more gut wrenching (as if it could be) is that Kelli-Jo and her husband were actually acting as sober, designated drivers for a very responsible wedding crew who called on them for their assistance.

The best man in the wedding, after drowning a few drinks to give him the courage to make his speech, made the smart choice and opted not to drive impaired. He called his uncle (who had always gladly taken calls in the middle of the night to be a DD) and his stepfather to drive a handful of people home who had been drinking.

After driving everyone home and visiting with a few friends, he and his wife (who had just celebrated their second wedding anniversary) were headed home themselves when their Ford F150 was t-boned by a Mercedes-Benz sedan. The truck spun and struck a large power pole and both Kelli-Jo and her husband, Sean, were thrown from the vehicle.

Reports state that when Sean gained consciousness, he heard his wife cry out and crawled 70 meters to hold her in his arms and say good-bye as she passed away.

Is that not the saddest thing you’ve ever heard? And so senseless! I have tears burning in my eyes.

Sean himself suffered multiple injuries including hand, ankle and spine fractures and severe road rash and is still in hospital while the 27-year-old male driver of the Mercedes sustained minor injuries…and was released on bail not 2 days after the crash.

Makes me sick.

The impaired driver faces charges of impaired driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm, and refusing to provide a breath sample.

I’ll be continuing to follow this case.

This comes not ONE WEEK after a 19-year-old impaired driver killed 49-year-old Jayantha Wijeratne and his 16-year-old daughter, Eleesha, in Toronto. Antonette, Jayantha’s wife, was rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries.

According to one news report, the family was returning from a 5-day vacation in Florida. Eleesha’s 19-old-brother, Brian, who wasn’t with the family when the crash happened, was informed about the death of his father and sister by two police officers. He then had to tell his mother, in critical condition, that her daughter and husband were dead.

Can you imagine? My heart breaks for these families. Such senseless devastation!

You can see an interview between Sun News’ Charles Adler and Brian Wijeratne on what’s happened to his family. Charles asks the question “are our drunk driving laws tough enough?” Brian responded with a sentiment I share. It feels like people don’t view drunk driving causing death as much, certainly not murder. It’s like impaired drivers who kill aren’t considered killers because they were drunk and suddenly that becomes an “excuse” or makes them less accountable for their choices and actions.

I agree with Brian. And I think if you choose to drive drunk, that should be considered intent to kill and it should be treated like premeditated murder. But I realize, I am slightly bias.

I leave you with this…Rethink Impaired Driving!


What do you think? Is impaired driving causing death murder or do you think that because the driver was under the influence, they weren’t in their “right” frame of mind and therefore it’s good that it’s treated like a lesser offence? What do you think needs to change so that impaired driving stops? Is it laws, policies, education or a combination of all three? Or do you think as long as there is alcohol, there will be drunk drivers?

On August 1, 2009, my beautiful mother-in-law’s life was cut tragically short by an impaired driver and my stepson’s life changed forever. In honor of Donna and Jordan Kennie, please don’t drink and drive. Impaired driving is 100% preventable. Think about it.

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  1. Great post! One of my brother’s friends was killed their senior year at West Point by a drunk driver. He was home for Thanksgiving break, and was killed at 6 in the evening by someone on his way home from Happy Hour who was traveling at more than double the posted speed limit. It was the driver’s 4th DUI. He was sentenced to 6 to 12 years in jail–not nearly enough, in my opinion, especially since he had been caught several times before, and obviously didn’t learn from his mistakes.
    It broke my heart. I saw it in the newspaper the next day (he was killed 10 miles from our house), and will never forget the reaction of both my brother and my parents when they found out. When your loved one enters a military academy, you worry about them being killed in wars, but not on one of their rare breaks, not by some idiot who should have just called a cab. Those are supposed to be happy occasions, time for family. I can’t imagine!

    Here is one of the original stories on it (from
    Attorney is charged in West Point cadet’s death
    By: The Associated Press
    Prosecutors said a Pennsylvania attorney has been charged with homicide by vehicle while driving drunk in a Thanksgiving eve crash that killed a 22-year-old West Point cadet.

    Robert Hall of Upper Milford Township in Lehigh County has
    worked as a sports agent representing cyclist Marty Nothstein and others. Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin said Hall also is charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and other offenses.

    Hall was released after posting 10 percent of $30,000 bail.

    Police said Hall was driving 90 miles per hour when he swerved
    into an oncoming lane of a South Whitehall Township street and
    struck the car 22-year-old Anthony Severo was driving.

    Severo had arrived at his parents’ home just four hours earlier
    for the holiday. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

    • Oh Susi, that is such a tragic story. I am so sorry for such a loss. My heart breaks for the friends and family that have been forced to more such a senseless death. I agree, it’s tough enough to worry about them being killed in a war, let alone driving HOME?!?!? It makes no sense…none!!!
      After 4 DUIs, it escalated to the point of killing someone makes it that much more disgusting and just goes to show that repeat offenders really do NOT get it. I think there should be a certain point where if you are busted with more than 1 DUI, you lose your license FOREVER! Why give people the chance to escalate to the point where they murder someone?!?! Sick! I agree, 6 to 12 years was certainly NOT enough!
      Sending you and the family a big hug. Thank you soooo much for sharing your story with me!!

  2. Ooo, yes, I agree with you. If someone claims they can’t control themselves AT ALL when they’re drunk, they shouldn’t be allowed to drink–because then they’re basically saying “Yes, if you put a gun in my hands, I would use it to shoot my puppy/best friend/child/love of my life.” I think most people would deny they’d ever do that. Yet they claim they’re incapable of choosing NOT to drive? Why is one circumstance so abhorrent that they’d never choose to do it and the other not? It’s a CHOICE to not care as much about driving drunk. The law’s purpose is to MAKE them care.

    And no, I’ve never lost anyone dear to me to a drunk driver (*knocks wood*), but I have a low tolerance for excuses. 🙂

    Now, to…er, completely switch gears, thanks for linking to my post! 🙂

    • LOVE it Jami and sooooo true! I couldn’t agree with you more. They can’t have their cake and eat it to. Either they are in control of their faculties and decision making power or they aren’t – period. Your analogy just makes it so crystal clear and I love that.
      Thank you soooo much for coming by and sharing your thoughts with me and the readers….got me all fired up in a GOOD WAY!
      BTW, I don’t comment often on your blog but I read all your posts and file a ton of them away for future use…I really appreciate the words and advice you put out there. So pls…keep up the fab work!

  3. Oh, Natalie. What an incredibly tragic story. Kelli-Jo’s story will hopefully make an important dent in this epidemic—thanks to news programs and bloggers like you. Deaths associated with drunk driving are murder in my opinion. We have many choices, including whether to drink, to keep drinking and to get behind the wheel. Every time we make a poor choice, we know the risks—even if we talk ourselves into ignoring them.

    Another sad story… A friend of my hubby’s was talking to another friend (J.) who was driving to his dad’s funeral. Mid-conversation, J. lost control of his car and sailed to his death—over the edge of a freeway and into the water below. His mother lost a husband and son in one week… Distracted driving isn’t worth it, no matter what.

    • August, I couldn’t agree with you more – there is always a choice and no matter how drunk you are, you can always choose NOT to drive. Period! I love how you said “…even if we talk ourselves into ignoring them…” BANG on!!

      That is the saddest story…sniff…my sympathies and deepest condolences go out to that poor woman and her family. To lose both her husband and son in one week, hell on earth!

      You are right, driving distracted is not worth it, ever!

      I am hopeful that someday, with all the awareness and promotion that is going on in the world, we will see a time when impaired driving, driving distracted and TEXTING while driving are all completely eradicated! Here’s to that day….

  4. Hi Natalie

    Ugh, that’s a sad story. I don’t see any reason why killing someone while drunk is treated any differently to murder. It’s not as if the consequences of drinking alcohol are a surprise to anyone who is old enough to drive. What’s more, why are we lenient on people who repeat offend drink and driving? It like saying we’d be tolerant of people who went out firing a gun, but “didn’t intend to hit anyone.”

    • I couldn’t agree more Nigel. To me, it is no different than murder and the fact that we are lenient with repeat offenders really makes me sick to my stomach because you are right, it gives a bad message. Imagine if someone did that with a gun…we’d toss them in a cell and throw away the key! But get drunk and drive and all is “forgiven”?!?! Makes no sense.

      Thank you so much for stopping by, commenting and forwarding the tweet along. I really appreciate your support.

  5. People who drive while impaired usually don’t think (or realize) they are impaired. Just like drunks don’t think they have a drinking problem or drug users don’t think they have a problem. Until people acknowledge that they have a problem or are impaired – even if just having 1 beer or glass of wine – these types of situations are going to occur.

    I’m not trying to belittle the seriousness of drinking and driving, but cell phone use is just as deadly. More accidents happen from cell phone use – particularly texting – than from alcohol consumption (in my opinion). Same argument could be used, since they are deliberately using their phone, that the loss of life could be a premeditated offense. While they didn’t set out to kill someone, they knowingly and willfully used the cell phone which lead to the death.

    The problem is that people think they are invincible. They think “that’s not going to happen to me because I’m really careful,” (or whatever excuse).

    I wish I knew what the answer is because whatever fixes this is what needs to hapen immediately. Natalie Hartford for President!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • I agree Jansen, a lot of times people underestimate how impaired they really are. That’s why in some senses, I wish we’d just go to a zero tolerance because then saying “one drink is one too many” would mean a lot more.

      I could agree with you MORE about texting and driving. I found an article last week about a new software that is coming out to disable a phone’s ability to be used while driving…which totally rocks. In the article, they said that texting while driving was 3 times more dangerous than driving drunk. And I don’t doubt it. Not to mention, the laws are even MORE lenient when an accident occurs from texting and driving…it’s terrible. Because you are right, it is premeditated. Being careless and choosing to break the law (*because using your phone while driving is illegal*) is totally planned…a sober and callus choice!

      Can you imagine? What phone call or text is MORE important than the safety of others on the road (*not to mention your own life*)? If you killed a child or a parent while sending a text to your friend about hooking up for super, would it have been worth it? No. To me, it’s so simple. My phone is ALWAYS in my purse behind my seat. Whatever it is, can WAIT! I mean…before cell phones we all waited…

      But you are right, people think they are invisible and that it’ll never happen to them. Sadly, until it does and usually the consequences are so terribly high!

      Amen – whatever needs to happen needs to happen NOW!

      For President…LOL!! Thank you soooo much…and for your support and fab comment!!!

  6. I agree that people, esp young people think bad things will never happen to them and may not realize that they are impaired. however, that’s no excuse. I doubt murder 1 would ever fly, but manslaughter should. Terrible stories of senseless deaths! Keep fighting, Nat!

  7. I echo everyone’s comments here. I also think some people are just selfish. They believe they are above the law, won’t get into an accident because they are in control, etc. They aren’t. These videos are proof of that. It saddens me that there are still so many deaths that could be avoided, but your posts are always a bright spot on this tragic episode in our history.

    • Absolutely Tameri! Soooo very selfish and self-centered.

      Here’s hoping that someone, somewhere reads my posts and makes a different choice. Or encourages a friend/family member to make a smart decision!

  8. this tragedy happened about 5 minutes from my home. we’re a solid middle class mind your own business kind of community. What on earth was that a..hole doing driving that fast? 180KPH or some such nonsense? Excuse me. we have some tough laws but they need to get tighter and harder. else it won’t change. ditto for the people driving under the influence of drugs.

    • Oh Louise….5 minutes from your home. The community must be in total shock and dismay. 180KPH…insane! The guy had no business…NONE!! Our laws need to be substantially tougher. Otherwise, I agree, things won’t change.

      • We are in shock. it’s a senseless waste. Did you see her widower was at a MADD fundraiser this weekend?

        • I can’t even begin to imagine.

          Yes, I read the story and shared it on my Facebook wall. I am in awe that he was out and about only a week later. He is a role model and his commitment to honoring his wife brought tears to my eyes. I could relate so deeply!!

  9. That video is one of the most powerful I’ve seen on impaired driving.

    Thankfully, laws in Texas are gaining teeth in terms of punishment for vehicular manslaughter/homicide. It’s not enough to take away a license. Someone hell bent on driving would just as soon get busted for driving impaired and without a valid license. And, the problem is the word impaired. It’s the impaired thinking that one can make it home safely because they’ve done it before. Trust me. I know. I’ve been there and done that. By the Grace of God, I’m on the other side of that hell.

    When I first moved to Texas (in the early 80’s), it was legal to drink while driving. One just couldn’t drive drunk. Yes. You read that right. I could cruise by a police officer drinking a beer or glass of wine with no consequences unless the officer chose to pull me over for a sobriety test. MADD gradually got the laws toughened. Next step? The driver couldn’t drink, but open containers and drinking by passengers were legal. Now, the laws prohibit open container/drinking within the vehicle.

    A woman headed home from what was purportedly a few happy-hour drinks, ran a red light and caused the death of three passengers in another vehicle. She was sentenced to a minimum of 10 years in prison. And, not one of the cushy rehab type facilities you described in an earlier post about your MILs murderer.

    Keep up the fight, Nat! I’m with ‘ya!

    • Gloria, you brought up some excellent points. I totally agree, someone hell bent on driving is going to drive, valid license or not. And the stats on how long people can drive drunk before getting caught let alone killing someone are INSANE totally feeding this idea that “I can do it cause I’ve done it before…”

      I cannot believe it used to be LEGAL to drink and drive. OMG, eh?! My how we’ve come a long way!

      10 years in a real prison sounds WAY more appropriate.

      Thanks sooooo much Gloria. Knowing you got my back definitely warms my heart!

  10. slam drunk drivers (esp those involved in a fatality or injury) with the max: what kassandra kaulius’ mom is seeking: 5 yrs min…the times are a changin’…just read the comments following any news story on any number of drunk driving fatalities/hit and runs and you can FEEL the anger burn through…i do think our courts are finally starting to turn around …unfortunately however, most people still drink and drive ’cause a tragedy has not landed in their personal circle…it’s always ‘in the news’ or ‘out there’ but ‘not affecting me’…and when it does it’s too late

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