Markita Kaulius, with picture of her daughter Kassanda – who was killed by a drunk driver in Surrey – in the background. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

Grieving mom shares vivid message against impaired driving with Lower Mainland students

‘The devastation can spread through everyone you love,’ Markita Kaulius warns

A grieving mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver in Surrey is imploring anyone who will listen to not drive while impaired. She’s currently taking her message to local schools.

“Each year between 1,250 to 1,500 people are killed in Canada. That works out to roughly four to six people a day, and 190 a day are injured,” Markita Kaulius notes.

“The pain of losing a loved one to an impaired driver is indescribable,” she says. “There are no words in the English language to even come close to tell you what it is like to lose a child, and how it affects families.

“I have a bedroom down the hall in my home where everything is still the same as the day she died. The only thing that I’ve been able to do is pack up her dresser drawers. I’ve tried three times to go in and empty the clothes out of her closet.

“The worst pain of losing a child is living every day without that child in your life.”

Kaulius is touring Lower Mainland high schools as grad season approaches to caution students about the perils of impaired driving.

She has partnered with ICBC as a “road safety speaker,” sharing her family’s tragic story with young ears hoping her audiences will make the right choices before getting behind the wheel.

On Wednesday, Kaulius was at Earl Marriott secondary in South Surrey, and on Thursday she spoke at Panorama Ridge Secondary in Newton. On May 28, she’ll be speaking at Frank Hurt Secondary, and on June 3, Guildford Park.

She’ll also be presenting at schools in Delta, Abbotsford, Langley and Chilliwack.

Her daughter Kassandra, 22, was killed in 2011, a year when 1,075 people were killed by impaired drivers in Canada and more than 63,000 were injured.

A North Delta woman who drank more that a bottle and a half of wine ran a red light and slammed her company van into the side of Kassandra’s BMW at 103 kilometres an hour, at 152nd Street and 64th Avenue on May 3, 2011.

The aspiring teacher and pitcher for the Storm’s senior ladies team had been on her way home after playing a game of softball at Cloverdale Athletic Park when she was killed. Markita spent that Mother’s Day choosing the clothing her daughter would be cremated in.

After her daughter died, Kaulius founded a group called Families for Justice to lobby government for better impaired driving laws.

“No one should ever die like this,” she said.

You could hear a pin drop in the auditorium as Kaulius recalled hearing about her daughter being killed and the harrowing aftermath for her family, in her one-hour talk. Student Isha Chand described it as “very powerful.”

“I ask all of you here today, after 40 years of education and awareness, is there anyone in this room who does not know that you should not drink or drive,” Kaulius challenged. “And yet we continue to see impaired driving, and distracted driving, as one of the number one criminal causes of death in Canada.”

Kaulius told the students about the promise she made to her daughter, as she looked at her body on the hospital gurney before it was taken to the morgue.

“I leaned down to kiss my daughter goodbye, and I told her that I loved her and I was sorry I couldn’t protect her,” Kaulius told the students. “I remember standing there, and her whole life flashed in front of me.

“I stood there saying goodbye to my baby girl, my best friend, for the last time. I told her I was sorry I could not have stopped the impaired driver from drinking and driving, but I would do everything I could to make sure that another family would never have to go through what we were going through now. It broke my heart to say goodbye to her.”

She said her family soon realized they were living a nightmare, “but we were all awake, and we weren’t going to wake up and have this all go away. This was real. We were living every parent’s worst nightmare – someone had killed our child.”

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Kaulius reminded the students that “life is all about the choices that we make, and I hope you’ll make all the right choices in life and keep yourselves safe. I hope you can all understand the consequences of risky behaviour when driving.

“And that means even speeding. Whether it be impaired driving, distracted driving such as talking on your phone, eating while driving, putting on makeup while driving, or checking your phone for messages.

“All of these actions can be deadly,” she warned. “It only takes seconds for a collision to occur.

“Please, do not drink or do drugs and drive,” Kaulius pleaded. “The devastation can spread through everyone you love.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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