Nelson introduces anti-impaired driving signs

Nelson’s Pat Henman campaigned to erect four signs downtown.

Drunk driving accident survivor Pat Henman (centre) is seen here being supported by Police Chief Paul Burkart (left) and Mayor Deb Kozak (right). Henman successfully campaigned to have four new signs erected around Nelson that encourage people to call 9-1-1 if they witness someone driving under the influence.

The drunk driver who nearly killed Nelson resident Pat Henman and her daughter Maia Vezina has been granted parole, walking out of prison a day after the three-year anniversary of the fateful 2013 crash.

“She served years instead of [her sentence of] years, which I already felt wasn’t enough,” a tearful Henman told the Star this week, while showcasing one of four new anti-impaired driving signs erected around downtown.

“And to know they only put five conditions on her release none of them said she had to go to AA or get therapy, not one makes me even sadder.”

Henman feels conflicting emotions about Shara Bakos, who collided head-on with her just outside Skookumchuck in 2013. Henman and daughter Maia Vezina were severely injured. But she hopes the signs, which encourage motorists and pedestrians to call 9-1-1 if they see impaired drivers, will make a difference.

“I do believe people do their time and I wish [Bakos] all the best,” Heman said. “She has a child she can go home to now, but I don’t think the courts have done their due diligence and I really hope I don’t hear she’s done it again.”

For Mayor Deb Kozak, a longtime friend of Henman’s, the issue is intensely personal.

“We need to make a clear statement that driving under the influence just isn’t acceptable and has dire consequences. This is not the first time in my life that drinking and driving has affected me, and I think every one of us has a story.”

Kozak believes better supports are needed for people who struggle with mental illness and substance abuse, and better intervention and education opportunities for people like Bakos.

“Education is so critically important. I think Pat really nailed it on the head when she said she was disappointed the release conditions didn’t include counselling for the young woman who impacted them so deeply.”

She’s glad the signs are nice and prominent, and believes they’ll make a difference.

“I’m really glad we have these signs up. It’s a small thing we can do.”

Kozak’s amazed at Henman’s resilience last year she directed Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and she’s once again become an active member of the community despite her injuries.

“It’s extremely emotional for me. I’m so grateful Pat is still here, part of my life and this community. She’s always been a driving force in the community, and she still is. I knew once she was well enough nothing would keep her down. I’m so happy to support her in this.”

From a policing perspective, Chief Paul Burkart thinks there’s reason for optimism.

“With the new laws in BC we saw a great reduction in impaired driving,” he said. “Between 2010 and 2014 we saw about a 52 per cent decrease in the number of impaired drivers the trouble is we still have about 100 people pass away each year because of impaired driving in BC alone.”

He said the impact goes beyond the people involved in the crash.

“This is a huge concern for police, so what we want is for people to be the eyes for the police and report impaired driving. If you’re on foot, grab your cell and dial 9-1-1. That will go directly to our dispatch, then you provide as much information about the driver, the direction of travel, the license plate if you can get it.”

If you’re driving, you should pull over first.

“If you’re going out for a drink, get a designated driver, get a friend to pick you up. You have to make those decisions before you go out, because while you’re drinking you won’t make sensible decisions.

“We’re not saying don’t go out and have fun, we’re saying be responsible so we’re not affecting the lives of people like Pat.”

Henman has been working with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, campaigning in the Chahko Mika Mall and sharing her story with anyone who will listen. She campaigned for the signage through the organization.

So after all she’s been through, what keeps her going?

“I can’t give you an exact answer why I’m doing this. It’s a drive, and I know the MADD people are really good at what they do. It’s something I can physically do, so I’m going to do it.

“I deeply, deeply care about all those people who go on a lovely drive one day and never come home.

“They never asked to be part of someone else’s bad decision.”

 

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Nelson climate strike packs downtown to demand action

An inter-generational crowd staged a ‘die-in’ as part of the global strike Friday

Nelson’s Cedar Grove Estates affordable housing site to receive $3.2 million in renos

The project was made public during the Nelson CARES annual general meeting

Kootenay Lake ferry to shut down Saturday afternoon

Service to resume Sunday morning at 6:30 a.m.

Mystery illness killing Kootenay bees

Samples being sent to laboratories for analysis

Woman stabbed in downtown Nelson

Victim is in hospital, suspect is in police custody

PHOTOS: Young protesters in B.C. and beyond demand climate change action

Many demonstaers were kids and teens who skipped school to take part

Oak Bay father’s testimony at murder trial like plot of ‘bad low-budget movie:’ Crown

Crown alleged Andrew Berry’s ‘entire story of Christmas Day is a lie’

B.C. truck drivers to face higher fines for not using winter tire chains

As of Oct. 1, not using chains on the highway when required could net you a $598 ticket

Singh campaigns in Toronto, May in Winnipeg, as Liberal and Tory leaders pause

All parties expected to be back on the campaign trail Sunday

Possible Canadian cases of vaping illnesses being investigated: health officer

‘I think that will be really important to address the overall trend of youth vaping’

Area 51 events mostly peaceful; thousands in Nevada desert

Three more people were arrested Friday on the remote once-secret military base

B.C. First Nation signs agreement to return its land on Vancouver Island

The land on the east coast of Vancouver Island will be returned to the We Wai Kai Nation

Former B.C. lifeguard gets house arrest for possession of child porn

Cees Vanderniet of Grand Forks will serve six months of house arrest, then two years’ probation

How to react to Trudeau’s racist photos? With humility, B.C. prof says

‘We are now treating racism as a crime that you cannot recover from’

Most Read