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How Safe and Sober Got Started - The Melanie Carter Story
Written by Gary
The Courtice family spearheads impaired driving education
Documentary, website created after losing their daughter in 2007 accident
May 29, 2009 - 12:06 PM
BY JENNA-LEE MAINSE
DURHAM -- Melanie Carter had left her car keys at home. She was not planning to drive that night. But decisions made the night of May 27, 2007 turned out to be fatal.Ms. Carter, aged 21, went to a party with some friends. Her plan not to drive changed when the person whom she intended to ride with had too much to drink. Ms. Carter herself only had a couple of drinks, say her parents, and opted to drive the car, its owner and one other person home.
According to her mother, Colleen Carter, the driving conditions that night were poor.
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"It was really bad weather that night. It was on a construction road and there was heavy machinery parked at the side of the road and was all soft gravel," says the Courtice resident. "It was very dark, there was no lighting where that accident occurred."
Ms. Carter lost control of her car on Taunton Road in Whitby. The vehicle spun and collided with a steam roller at the side of the road, with the full impact felt on the driver's side.
Ms. Carter was taken to St. Mike's Hospital in Toronto but "It was too late," Mrs. Carter said of her daughter.
Now, two years later, a stone in memory of Melanie Carter sits in her mother's garden, and the family continues to struggle with their loss.
"It changes your life forever," Mrs. Carter said, "and it's a horrible nightmare."
Since the accident, friends and family of the Carters have made it their mission to spread awareness about impaired driving.
The young woman's uncle, Gary Cookson, created a documentary called Mel's Keys, which illustrates the challenges and emotions associated with the accident. The documentary was broadcast by Rogers Television Network and made a splash on YouTube.com and Facebook.
The Carter family then began developing Safe and Sober Canada, an organization with a mandate to educate young people about the consequences of impaired driving, whether the impairment be alcohol, drugs, speed or cellphone related.
"Something like four people in Canada a day are killed because of drunk driving alone ... and people need to pay more attention to it," Melanie Carter's father, Blair Carter said. "As a parent, as a driver, as a young person, as an old person -- anybody who operates a motor vehicle or has a family has to stand up and take notice of this."
Lawmakers across Ontario are starting to take more notice.
As of May 1, any driver whose blood alcohol concentration registers between 0.05 and the legally impaired limit of 0.08, will face a license suspension.
According to Sergeant Shaun Arnott, of Durham Regional Police Services, the first offence will carry a three-day suspension. The second offence will see the driver's licence suspended for seven days, and the offender must enrol in a mandatory alcohol education program. A third offence carries a 30-day licence suspension, enrolment in an alcohol education program and an alcohol ignition interlock condition is placed on the licence for six months.
"I think it's important to pull the drunk drivers off the roads and ensure that everybody on the roads is safe in Durham Region and across Ontario," Sgt. Arnott said.
Ms. Carter's best friend, Trista Whitehead, said cracking down on drinking and driving is more than overdue.
"Having a limit at 0.08, it's too high already," Ms. Whitehead said. "The fact that a slap on the wrist is considered punishment in our country is disgusting."
While the Carters feel the new licence suspensions are a positive step in the right direction, they plan to use www.safeandsobercanada.com to assist in spreading awareness.
"This new law is definitely going to change things up," Mrs. Carter said. "We're trying to do what we can since this has happened in our family and with our Safe and Sober Canada website and with the media that we are putting out we are hoping that we can make a difference as well."