AMHERST - Vast amounts of time, energy and money have been invested to stop drunk drivers from killing innocent people in senseless, random acts of carnage but, despite all efforts, more than 1,400 Canadians are still killed each year by this crime.
"You can't get rid of drinking and driving because you can't get rid of every single idiot in the world who's going to do it," teenage guest speaker, Kali O'Dell, said to police officers from throughout Nova Scotia who came to Amherst Thursday to kick off the Operation Christmas campaign. "But we can make the consequences worse for people who do drink and drive."
The 60 officers and other first responders listened to O'Dell talk about how her life was radically altered forever by a drunk driver on Oct. 29, 2006, when she was only 12-years-old.
O'Dell, along with her 33-year-old mom, Laura, her 36 year-old dad, Greg, and her nine-year-old brother, Jeremy, were returning home from their grandparents home when, at 6:30 p.m., they were hit head on by a drunk driver who crossed the centre line of a road near Salisbury, N.B.
Following the crash she could see her mom and dad were still breathing.
"Dad had died almost instantly but I heard my mom take her last breath," O'Dell said. "I leaned over and kissed her cheek and told her everything would be ok but I knew it wasn't. I promised Jeremy that we would make it out and that everything would be fine."
O'Dell was taken to the hospital where she was treated for a sprained wrist and a concussion.
"Jeremy had a broken neck, two broken legs, one of which was split. His head was cracked open, he had numerous internal injuries and my parents were dead," O'Dell said.
"The last time I saw my mom I was putting a sheet over her face."
Everything was a blur for the next few months.
"I didn't know until early the next morning what happened," O'Dell said. "I knew subconsciously they were gone but consciously I didn't know."
She asked her grandmother what happened to her parents and she told O'Dell they had gone to heaven.
"When I saw Jeremy in such bad condition I wanted to hurt someone," O'Dell said.
O'Dell had a hard time eating a sleeping for the next few months.
The person driving the car was 45-years-old Moncton man who pleaded guilty to two counts of impaired driving causing death and two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm.
He was let out on parole after serving two-and-a-half years in jail.
"The guy who killed my parents saw the accident as Gods way of ridding him of his alcoholism," O'Dell said. "It's not an excuse."
"He was released three years after his sentencing. He received five years and it was all served concurrently on four charges," O'Dell said. "He's home for Christmas and he has a family, and our family is broken."