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Mock crash drives home real message at North Vancouver high school

A mother who lost her 22-year-old daughter to a drunk driver has made it her mission to educate young people about road safety

Kassandra Kaulius was coming home from a softball game on May 3, 2011, when an impaired driver struck her.

Sadly, the 22-year-old from Surrey didn’t make it. On average, 26 youths, within the same age bracket as Kassandra, are being killed, and 9,600 are being injured in crashes each year in British Columbia, according to police-reported data based on the five-year average between 2018 and 2022.

It’s often said you never heal from the loss of a child, which is right in the case of Kassandra’s mother, Markita Kaulius. However, she has channelled her profound grief into a courageous effort to raise awareness about the consequences of making poor driving decisions. As ICBC road safety speaker, she shares her experience with students on occasion to show what a family and community go through when an impaired driver kills a loved one.

“I’ve been to Ottawa six times trying to get them to make changes in the Criminal Code of Canada and redefine the offence as impaired driving causing death, which is what it is, but the last time I got back I knew that they still weren’t doing enough. I decided if they weren’t going to change the laws I had to go and talk to the next generation of drivers and that’s why I contacted ICBC and asked if I could go to talk to high school kids because they’re the up-and-coming drivers of the future. They’re the ones that can make a difference in the stats,” she said.

On May 10, Markita was present at Argyle Secondary in North Vancouver for an ICBC mock crash event alongside a squad of several agencies, including but not limited to the North Vancouver RCMP, District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services, Vancouver Coastal Health, and Lions Gate Hospital. The event was intended to caution young adults of the dangers of impaired driving through a live and visceral demonstration of what happens at a crash scene.

“This pretend car crash gives students a glimpse of what could happen if they choose to drive impaired or dangerously or recklessly. Our goal is to show them rather than just tell them,” said Const. Mansoor Sahak, spokesperson for the North Vancouver RCMP.

New drivers are eight times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than experienced drivers, said Louisa Mendonca, ICBC’s road safety and community co-ordinator of North Shore, Howe Sound and Sunshine Coast, citing Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“With grad season on the horizon, we know that the kids are going to go out to celebrate their milestone,” she said. “We hope that by watching this mock crash they will think twice at some point in the future when they’re going to make a decision to get into a vehicle, as a driver or passenger. Even if they share it with just one friend, it could make a significant difference in the long run and reduce our crashes.”

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for Canadian youth. Distracted driving is the top factor (30 per cent) in casualty crashes involving young drivers followed by speed (16 per cent) and impaired driving (seven per cent.)

Young male drivers are involved in crashes almost three times as often as young female drivers, particularly when speeding or impaired driving is involved.

Eighteen per cent of drivers speeding in casualty crashes were 16 to 21 years old, according to ICBC data. Yet these young drivers make up only six per cent of all licensed B.C. drivers.

Fatemeh Falah is an intern reporter with the North Shore News. She can be contacted at [email protected].