Four days before his 24th birthday, Grant McLeod was a passenger in a car struck head-on by a pickup truck travelling the wrong way down the Perimeter Highway.
The Sept. 9 crash left McLeod in a coma and killed the driver of the car, 21-year-old Samantha Schlichting, a mother of two.
Police charged the driver of the pickup truck, 49-year-old David Deslisle, with impaired driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm, refusing to give a breathalyzer test and possessing marijuana resin.
While the pickup truck driver was not injured, McLeod suffered memory loss and brain damage that makes it difficult for him to speak.
"I have (had to relearn a lot). Not as much as I thought I'd have to. I guess all the information's still in my brain somewhere. Now it just has to make different connections. So that's mostly what I'm doing now, is trying to make those connections," McLeod said. "I think I have pretty much relearned how to walk, and even now, I can still feel that my left leg, it has a little bit of a limp in it."
Since January 2010, Winnipeg police have laid 1,428 charges of impaired driving involving alcohol in Winnipeg, according to records obtained through a freedom-of-information request. There have also been 35 incidents of impaired driving causing bodily harm and four incidents of impaired driving causing death.
Documents reveal most incidents happen close to the city centre. Of all the city wards in Winnipeg, Point Douglas, Mynarski, St. Boniface and Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry have the highest number of charges and accounted for 42 per cent of the total charges of impaired driving involving alcohol between 2010 and 2012. These areas include neighbourhoods such as downtown, the Exchange District, the Corydon strip and Osborne Village, which are full of late-night hot spots.
Most drivers were charged late at night or early in the morning, as records show 53 per cent of all impaired driving charges were laid between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. The numbers spike between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m., closing time for most bars in the city.
Buses stop running not long after the bars close, and most routes even earlier, meaning someone who doesn't want to spend money on a cab may decide to take a risk driving home. Taxi company officials said wait times for cabs often jump on weekend nights due to high demand, which means people who don't call for a cab in advance might have to wait more than an hour to get a ride.
"Because there's such a big rush to get home at 2:30 in the morning, our cars are everywhere," said Gurdip Singh, manager at Duffy's Taxi. "It is a longer wait after the bar rush, but that's just part of the business. Even with the additional cars, there are a lot of Christmas parties we have to accommodate."
A number of impaired-driving charges are typically laid during the holiday season, despite services such as Operation Red Nose, which offer to get people home safe and keep drunk drivers off the road.
Joyce McLeod, Grant's mother, said a doctor from Health Sciences Centre phoned her at 6:30 a.m. to say Grant suffered head injuries and a broken left femur following the crash and was a "very sick boy." She urged motorists to think twice before getting behind the wheel impaired.
"All I can say is don't do it. It's not worth it," McLeod said. "It's not worth putting other people through the pain that they have to go through, and what you'll have to go through when you realize that you are the reason someone is dead."
With the help of Free Press staff, students in Red River College's Creative Communications program learn how to mine freedom of information legislation for stories. At the start of the school year, students submit access to information requests. Over the next several weeks, the Free Press will publish some of the stories students wrote based on their requests. Visit wfp.to/opensecrets to see them all.