Impaired Driving – Our Story

A brutal before and after

On August 1, 2009, my mother-in-law (the beautiful Donna Kennie who I lovingly called Mamma K) was gunned down. I say gunned down because it feels like she was brutally murdered by a gun-wielding psychopath. Instead, it was a seemingly harmless driver who had one too many drinks and smoked some weed. Someone who likely thought he was “fine” to drive but clearly wasn’t when he cut sharply into the other lane.

It was a gorgeous sunny day. 2:30 in the afternoon.

A witness driving behind Mamma K testified in court that when the 1-ton truck slammed into Mamma K’s 2-door sunfire nearly head on, the force of the collision propelled the truck literally 10 feet in the air as it flipped over and landed on its hood sliding into the gravel. The impact tore the driver side door off her car. It was found imbedded in the truck’s front grill.

My Mamma K was nearly ripped in two and died almost instantly. She lived long enough to turn to her right as she took her final breath and see that her 16-year-old grandson (my step-son) was alive. He watched her mutilated body fade away to the afterlife before his very eyes. Now he lives with recurring nightmares and sleepless nights.

Trent Mallet was charged with impaired driving causing death.

And he did her family the honor (being sarcastic here) of pleading not-guilty to impaired driving causing death. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the Canadian justice system and Trent’s right to plead not guilty to try and get away with it. But that choice meant that my family was dragged through 18 months and over a dozen court dates before finally seeing this guy found guilty and sentenced for his crime (3 whole years…here’s another kick in the gut, he’ll be eligible for parole after serving 1 year…yip…he could serve 1 year for murder!).

The entire court process was like having a Band-Aid slowly torn off with salt pouring directly on an open, festering wound over and over again. We were unable to get closure, heal, or move forward having the hurt and anger stirred up every few months for nearly two years.

And then there was the added emotional roller coaster of not knowing from court date to court date what was going to happen next; were we going to win, was the criminal blood in or out (deemed inadmissible by the way), medical evidence admissible (it was), was he going to get off on a technicality (thankfully by sheer luck, he did not)? I can’t even begin to put into words the emotional torture this was to my family; the not knowing if he’d ever be held accountable for his choices and actions…for her murder.

And it doesn’t end. It doesn’t stop with a final round of court dates, sentencing, his eventual release etc. It lasts forever. It will reverberate through our lives forever. It will always be there. It will always haunt us.

Drunk drivers don’t discriminate against time of day. They don’t care where they are, if the road conditions are ideal, or if anyone will get hurt. Nothing matters to them because you see…they tell themselves they are ok to drive….they think their harmless…

I think they are gun wielding psychopaths!

The devastation that impaired driving inflicts on families is undeniable and unspeakable. Worse than that, it is senseless and 100% preventable. Mamma K never had to die!

Why ever take the chance? Why drive even after a drink or two; even if you feel fine? Why take the risk? What if you inadvertently murder some innocent person(s)…just to save a few bucks on a cab? It’s not worth it! It doesn’t make sense.

Our Whole Story

If you’d like the whole story, blow-by-blow, check out my blog journal of our experience:

Victim Impact Statements

Want a good cry? Read our victim impact statements that we read aloud, in court:

Impaired Driving Fridays

It’s become a life passion for me to advocate against impaired driving, for tougher laws and sentences, and for better preventative methods. Every Friday I will bring you a mash-ups of latest cases, news, laws etc. My hope is to get you fired up to advocate against this 100% preventable crime. You can always get the most recent posts via my impaired driving category!

MADD Canada

Support MADD Canada and follow them on Facebook, Twitter (@maddcanada), and on the Web. And answer their Call to Action (the post is dated 2010 but the Call to Action is ongoing)!

Comments

  1. Great Job Sweetheart!!! – You’ve already made such a difference!

  2. Aw, Sweets, this just makes my heart cry reading about your dear Mamma K. I didn’t realize your step-son witnessed it – I hope eventually he will be able to sleep peacefully.

    You are absolutely right, this is 100% preventable. I don’t know a single person who isn’t affected by drunk driving, or impaired driving as you call it.

    Your Friday posts are a tribute to Mamma K and all the other victims of this horrid and senseless crime. Well done, girl.

    • Snifffff….thank you for your support Tameri – makes such a huge difference to know there’s a team with me fighting this battle.
      Yes…we all hope and pray that someday my step-son will sleep peacefully…it’s tough…but he’s strong and healing every day!
      HUGS!

    • One judge, in sentencing a drunk-driver who had ran over 2 pedestrians – injuring 1 of them but killing the other – remarked, in sentencing the offending driver, that it had been “time to declare that drivers under the influence of alcohol should be deemed people shooting a gun indiscriminately” (“Shai Simon gets 20 years for hit-and-run”, Jerusalem Post, 18 March 2010 [http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Shai-Simon-gets-20-years-for-hit-and-run]). I would agree with the judge, particularly if that driver kills or injures a person other than himself/herself. Sentences should be stiffer for drunk and drugged drivers who kill or injure others, with 5 years as a starting point for any prison sentence. A few years ago, MADD came out with sentencing guidelines, for people convicted of impaired driving causing death (madd.ca/media/docs/MADD_Canada_Sentencing_Framework_FINAL.pdf). Anyone convicted of impaired driving causing injury or death should be banned from driving for at least 10 years, with the ban to start taking effect after the offending driver’s prison release date (unless the driver has received a lifetime driving ban that doesn’t allow that person’s driving privileges to be reinstated.

  3. Although the person who hit and killed my brother wasn’t impaired, she was negligent. She’d turned around to look at her sleeping baby and missed seeing three young boys on bicycles crossing the street. Thankfully (if you can feel thankful for anything after something like that), she only hit one of the three of them. Although my brother died, she didn’t receive even a citation. It was only through civil court that we received any kind of validation. We had to learn to let it go & put the loss in God’s hands or become embittered. We realize that it was mostly an accident, but as you said…it still sticks when it was so preventable. ::hugs::

    • Kitt…I am so sorry for your loss!!! The devastation of knowing how preventable it was can debilitate a person, for sure. I am so happy to hear that you were able to find some kind of validation through the civil courts (not even a citation is sickening) and then in leaving it to God. Hopefully others who read your comment will take a little more care and consideration when driving to ensure they are being as diligent as possible.

      Sometimes I think people forget they are driving a multi-ton scrap of metal that can kill…we need to keep our wits about us and be ever so careful…for our lives and others who trust us to be aware and responsible…

      HUGS!!!

      • Amen! My “Help Save A Life” post back in October tells a little bit about our family’s story.

        I also get concerned for people who cut off semi-trucks or who don’t use turn signals before pulling in front of them. They have a lot of weight behind their speed. Stopping is not easy for them. They need proper space.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Be Yourself…Everyone Else is Taken  Natalie’s writes and advocates about things that literally shred my heart to bits when I read them, as well as things that have me rolling on the floor with laughter.  Don’t miss out on […]

  2. […] another story moves you, find a charity for that cause and support it. Natalie Hartford has done a great job focusing on MADD Canada and the work they do to prevent impaired driving. Amber […]

  3. […] Mom) to a drunk driver several years ago and almost lost her step son, the Dude as well. You can read Natalie’s story here. Talk about a kickass woman who chose not to let tragedy consumer […]

  4. […] she had her van totaled when someone ran a red light. She was in physiotherapy for 9 months. Natalie Harford has written about this subject too; she lost her mother in law to a drunk […]

  5. […] Natalie Hartford, besides keeping her readers in stitches about topics most of us wouldn’t dar… is one of the most vocal advocates for the campaign against drinking and driving. Her family’s personal experience will touch your heart and hopefully encourage you to spread the word. […]

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