October 21, 2020

When Katie Apreda received that devastating phone call those many years ago, she collapsed in despair. “I felt horrible,” she said. “I dropped to my knees. I was at work when I got the call, and it’s a blur what happened.”

On Aug. 11, 2011 Ashley Fogal, Apreda’s best friend, was killed by a drunk driver. It’s been seven years since the accident and not a day goes by where Apreda doesn’t miss her.

Katie Apreda & Ashley Fogal

“She was on her way to a concert, she was 23 years old. She was like two minutes from the concert and the guy crossed into her side of the lane and hit her head on,” said Apreda.  Fogal was pronounced dead at the scene

Fogal was not the only victim of the crash. Her friend Alissa Bright was in the passenger seat and was seriously injured. The accident occurred on Rama Road in Orillia just outside Casino Rama where the concert was being held.

Christopher Dubreuil of Cobourg plead guilty to impaired driving causing death and bodily harm back in 2013. 

“He received four years’ jail time and got out in two,” said Apreda angrily. “Our justice system is a joke when it comes to this stuff.”

Dubreuil’s blood alcohol level was between 90 and 120 milligrams at the time of the crash; the legal limit is 80 milligrams.

It was discovered that earlier that day on Aug. 11, Dubreuil was discharged from a rehabilitation centre in Oshawa for prescription drug addictions and was later drinking at a hotel near Casino Rama with two women.

Later that evening he tried to get into the casino but was denied entry due to not having his identification. Dubreuil then made the selfish and inconsiderate decision to take one of the woman’s SUV and drive to Oshawa and get his ID. Moments later Dubreuil collided with Fogal’s vehicle.

A witness reported that Dubreuil was speeding and looking at his cellphone when the SUV crossed the centre line.

“After I got the call I went straight to her house to see her mom and her family. It was almost like a movie that you see on TV, it’s crazy,” said Apreda.

When Apreda found out Fogal was killed by a drunk driver she felt only one way.

“I was angry,” she said.

Katie Apreda is now the president of MADD’s York Region chapter, being motivated to join the organization after the loss of her loved one.

“I didn’t even know anything about MADD back then. It took me a couple of years to join MADD because of the feelings and I just wasn’t ready to talk about it.”

Fogal’s aunt actually joined MADD first and became the president. Part of her job was to talk to family members and friends of victims, as well as survivors. That encouraged Apreda to join four years ago.

The work that she does is strictly volunteer. “I feel like that’s what I have to do now, I need to make a change because of the anger, I need to stop this. I know I can’t stop it because I’m not a police officer, but if I can get out there you know, it’s what I’m set to do I think,” she said.

Apreda hopes to accomplish many things as president but she primarily wants to curb the rise in impaired driving offences.

“I want the numbers to go down. I keep reading every weekend that it’s higher and higher. I’m hoping for the future that society doesn’t need MADD.”

York Regional Police Media Relations Officer Andy Pattenden discussed the major increase in impaired driving offences that York Region experienced in 2018.

“Year over year for the past five years we’ve seen a steady increase in the number of charges that have been laid for impaired-related driving offences. It has been an increase of 2 per cent,” said Pattenden.

York Regional Police have gone to extensive efforts to stop the trend of increasing impaired driving offences.

“We would hope that with the many efforts that we’ve put forward with education, enforcement and publicizing some of the crazier events of impaired driving in our region that the numbers would go down, but we haven’t seen that happening,” said Pattenden

The police force has undertaken various initiatives to curb the increase such as increased enforcement on the roads and a Road Safety Bureau.  The bureau is an organization run by York Regional Police that is dedicated to road safety in the region. It has four units – the Major Collision Investigation Unit, the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Unit, Road Safety Programs and the Traffic Enforcement Unit.  The force has also done a significant amount of messaging on social media and through traditional media about the dangers of impaired driving.

“We’ve been using humour to try and get the message across, serious messages to try and get it across. We know we’ve reached a very large audience with the message. There aren’t too many people around in the last 30 years that haven’t heard the message don’t drink and drive,” said Pattenden. “People know it but for whatever reason people still continue to make that choice to drink alcohol and get behind the wheel of a vehicle.”

The most recent effort that York Regional Police has used is deciding to name the people charged with impaired driving in the news. This tactic started on Dec. 3, 2018, with names being posted weekly on different news outlets and sites and in publications.

“Every week we post the names but at the same time every week we post 18 plus names on our list and it hasn’t been going down. So that also doesn’t seem to be changing the number in the direction we’ve been hoping for. We don’t know what it’s going to take to change but I can tell you we’re not giving up,” said Pattenden.

Once people consume alcohol, their ability to make a good decision is impaired, and the more you drink the less likely you are to make a good decision. For some reason people still seem to go down that path, and it happens everyday.

“The advice we give is that there is no safe amount. If you’re planning to drive a car just have 0, but you know easier said than done,” Pattenden said.

He thinks some people just do not care and other people think they are OK to have a few drinks and drive. This is mainly because they have gotten away with it before.

“They’re not thinking they are going to drive into some innocent people and kill them, they are just not putting themselves there,” he said, “For us I know we have to get that behaviour changed before people even get to the bar. Again this is a message that has been pounded into people for years and some people just don’t seem to get it, or care.”

The alarming factor is that the statistics of impaired driving that are released are just the number of people being caught.

“This is a very small percentage of the number of people out there driving impaired,” he said.

York Regional Police have made a huge deal about this issue.

Last year alone the force laid more than 2,000 charges for impaired driving.

Pattenden added that the interesting thing about these numbers is that impaired driving is the No. 1 preventable offence.

“It’s an incredible amount of people doing it and It’s so easily prevented,” he said. “There are people who have addiction to alcohol and have alcohol-related issues, but that’s not the majority of people we’re catching.”

Pattenden said most people they catch are people who made a bad decision that night and happened to get caught.

He said the new breathalyzer laws are an improvement over the old laws.

“It’s a step in the right direction,”  Pattenden said, “What you’re going to see is that we’ll end up catching more people but is that going to be a deterrent? We will see. Only time will tell.”

The new breathalyser laws, which came into effect Dec. 18, 2018, changed what officers can ask for and what you can be charged with. These new laws allow officers to demand a breathalyzer test from any driver, even ones not suspected of impaired driving. In addition, new drug-related driving offences were introduced and breathalyzer roadside screening for drug impairment is being done.

“It hasn’t really changed all that much in our enforcement because all that we needed was a suspicion that somebody had consumed alcohol in order to give them a breath test,” said Pattenden. “Now we can just make a demand so on any traffic stop or collision, we can just demand that they blow into the machine.”

Pattenden said police will end up charging more people, but he thinks it will take some time before people are afraid they will get caught, and maybe make better decisions earlier on.

“The majority of impaired drivers that we catch these days are called in by concerned citizens. So, it’s other drivers out there that spot somebody weaving or driving slowly or some sort of odd driving behaviour and call 911,” he said.

Pattenden said they will intercept those people and give them a breath test and find out that they’ve been drinking a lot more than they should of.

“If there is any encouraging statistic that’s one of them. Our community doesn’t seem to want to tolerate drinking and driving anymore and so people are calling 911 which is a good thing for us,” he said.

In 2017 in York Region there were 1,249 impaired driving incidents that led to 1,643 charges. In 2016 1,271 incidents led to 1,631 charges, and in 2015 there were 1,255 incidents and 1,695 charges. In 2014 there were 1,108 incidents and 1,472 charges.

These stats show the steady increase in impaired driving incidents and charges laid over the past few years in York Region. The alarming stat is the increase in 2017. There were 1,643 charges laid and in 2018 there were 1,650 charges. The increase may be small, but this still shows that despite the constant messaging people still choose to drive while impaired.

The issue of impaired driving seems to be similar in Waterloo Region according to Staff Sgt. Michael Hinsperger. He is the head of the Traffic Services Unit for the Waterloo Regional Police. 

“We certainly saw an increase in impaired driving in our region, the most we’ve seen in five years,” he said .

In 2017 there were 745 impaired driving charges laid by police, and in 2018 there were 838.

Waterloo Regional Police has gone to extensive efforts to reduce those numbers although they aren’t working as of yet. “We are certainly out there every night. Nightly ride programs are in effect, we are exposed to the problem every night,” Hinsperger said. “This is the top priority in our region.”

He added that they are attacking the problem as best they can. 

“It is a troubling phenomenon and I don’t know quite what’s causing the increase,” he said.

However, Hinsperger believes there are a few reasons as to why we are seeing an increase.

“After receiving the constant messaging about drinking and driving human beings begin to start turning it off. The public is numb to the messaging out there. We need to change our methodology and who the messaging is targeting,” he said.

In Waterloo Region 40,610 vehicles were stopped, and 496 alcohol roadside tests were conducted in 2018.

“It is a scary trend we’re seeing,” said Hinsperger. “People aren’t getting enough education which a big part of enforcement is.”  He believes that education is the most important thing and that educating people at a young age to not drink and drive has an effect.

“There needs to be fresh messaging and more awareness. More victims of impaired driving need to speak to the public. That is powerful messaging,” he said.

He believes that if someone charged with impaired comes forward and speaks to the public about his or her mistake, it would be beneficial.

“It would be a good step forward if someone were to release the message (don’t do what I did). This would be very valuable messaging and not to mention courageous,”

On Feb. 3 a driver who was under the influence was involved in a three-vehicle crash in East Gwillimbury, Ont. Emergency responders were called to the scene of the crash at Woodbine Avenue and Mount Albert Road just before midnight.

The impaired driver was Luke Andrews, a now 20-year-old Newmarket man. He was arrested for refusing a breathalyzer test.

“So basically, I drank and got in the car with my girlfriend and I was driving down the road which I have no recollection of,” said Andrews. “We left her mom’s boyfriend’s house where we were drinking.”

The last thing he remembers is getting in the car and the next thing Andrews knew he was waking up in a jail cell.

“It started coming back to me. I crashed my car, then I got released out on probation with a $3,500 fine. My car was impounded. I paid $350 to the towing company, another $250 for the tow from the accident,” said Andrews.

Luke Andrews, 20, of Newmarket, Ont., paid a price for drinking and driving. Photo by Keegan Lavigne/Spoke News

Andrews now has a breathalyzer in his car that he must blow into in order to make the vehicle start. It costs him $350 a month for the equipment. In addition, his insurance skyrocketed to $10,000 a year.

He said it will remain at $10,000 a year for the next three years but if he drives responsibly it may decrease.

“Everyone walked away fine. I got lucky, that was probably the luckiest thing,” Andrews said.

He went onto talk about how he felt after the crash.

“Honestly, it didn’t really come back to me until, like, I really started thinking about it, and now when you see how many people are actually driving while impaired, it’s scary,” said Andrews. “I have a friend who has been to prison for hurting someone in a crash. For me to be as lucky as I was because no one was injured, it’s unbelievable.”

Andrews explained how embarrassing the accident and charges laid against him were for him and his family.

“Basically, that was one of my family’s biggest disappointments. It’s one of my biggest embarrassments. It’s not something you want to talk about, it’s something I’ve kept hidden,” he said.

The accident occurred in February 2017, so it has been over two years since then.

“I finally came out about the accident during the second year, I had enough with hiding it,” he said.

The accident has had a huge impact on Andrew’s life.

“The big thing is the money. I couldn’t imagine if I did anything worse, if someone was injured I would be sitting in jail right now,” he said. “I am blessed to have freedom right now. I’m paying basically $11,000 this year just to drive a vehicle.”

Andrews was very vocal about his accident on Facebook. He posted what happened and how it has messed up his life. It is one of his biggest regrets.

“Basically I’m talking about it on Facebook because I’m hoping to change at least one person’s life.”

He talked about how alcohol and drugs change people.

“ I have received messages where people have said this is going to change me but honestly you don’t care, you’re not you when you’re under the influence,” said Andrews. “ You’re always going to make the bad decision when you’re under the influence rather than the good one because you’re thinking I won’t get caught, I’m going to get lucky.”

Andrews was asked what he would say to someone now if he saw them trying to get behind the wheel impaired.

“Honestly if someone was drunk and they were trying to get behind the wheel, there wouldn’t be much being said because they wouldn’t have their keys. I’d have their keys, I’d make sure to have them. I’ve been in many situations since the crash. I’ve taken keys, I’ve had people sleep in their car, I’ve taken air out of people’s tires in my driveway.

“Not everyone gets as lucky as me,” he said.

He is right – there have been many accidents across Canada in recent years where an impaired driver has caused death or bodily harm.

Marco Muzzo is someone people will never forget for his horrible act of selfishness and indecency. On Sept. 27, 2015 six members of the Neville Lake family (their great-grandmother, grandmother, grandfather and three grandchildren) were involved in a horrific crash. Muzzo, who was under the influence, was driving home from Toronto’s Pearson Airport after getting home from a bachelor party in Miami. He sped through a stop sign and collided with a minivan.  The crash occurred at the intersection of Kipling Avenue and Kirby Road just north of Kleinberg, Ont. shortly after 4 p.m. Nine year-old Daniel Neville-Lake, five-year-old Harrison Neville-Lake, two-year-old Milly Neville-Lake, and 65-year-old Gary Neville died in the crash. The grandmother and great-grandmother were injured. Muzzo was about three-times over the legal limit of alcohol consumption while driving. In March 2016 he was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading to four counts of impaired driving causing death, and two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm.

Jennifer Stallman, who owns a business called “Entertain Kids on a Dime,” organized a memorial for the Neville-Lake family in King City on Aug. 14, 2016.

 “The memorial site that my group put together was at Langdon Park,” she said. “Thanks to monetary and item donations, we were able to plant four trees and put a bench surrounding the playground. Each tree had a separate plaque for Milly, Harry, Daniel and their grandfather Gary. We wanted to do more for her family, so I created a free memorial event which we held at Wellesley Park in King City.

“I decided to host the event because I have a large following and I knew I could raise money for Jen and Ed and pay tribute to her children and dad,” she said.

Stallman also talked about what could stop this increase in impaired driving.

 “York Region has started publicly shaming people online who were arrested for drunk driving. I still don’t think it’s enough” she said.

Stallman believes that stricter penalties could help.

“I think the government should give out breathalyzers to car owners. Some people have poor judgement, and this could help because the answer will be right in front of them,” she said. “I think stricter laws have to happen. I think they should give a significant amount of jail time to anyone caught driving under the influence. Also, they should take away drivers’ licences for five years. Maybe if someone was scared, they would be more responsible.”

Leave a Reply