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A dose of drinking and driving reality

B.C. woman recounts pain of losing loved ones

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All eyes are on Joan Parsons as she tells students about losing her loved ones in car crashes because the drivers were under the influence of alcohol.

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All eyes are on Joan Parsons as she tells students about losing her loved ones in car crashes because the drivers were under the influence of alcohol. Photo Store

Many Oak Park High School students sat silently in the school theatre last Wednesday as they listened to a guest tell her heart-wrenching story of senseless loss.

Joan Parsons, from Vancouver, is one of four speakers taking part in Manitoba Public Insurance’s "Friends for Life" speaker series. The four speakers are expected to visit more than 50 schools during November. Parsons was chosen to speak at Oak Park High School on the sixth annual National Day of Remembrance (Nov. 20) to remember those whose lives were lost in motor vehicle collisions.

Parsons’ story is a sad one: she has lost three loved ones, and in each situation, impaired driving was involved.

Her son, Kenny, was hit by a drunk driver when he was 15-years-old.

"My whole family was devastated," Parsons told the audience.

She said after a two-week trial, despite witness testimony and the provided evidence, the driver was acquitted of all charges, and he drove away in the same car he had hit Kenny with.

"The imprint of my son’s body was still on the car," Parsons said.

Parsons’ sister and brother-in-law were also killed in a car accident, and Parsons’ brother was severely injured by a drunk driver, but survived.

Parsons told a room full of students she had wanted to shoot the people who took her loved ones away — until another tragic accident changed her perspective. A woman she worked with had a son who went out with his friends one night to a bar. The son and his friends went street racing while under the influence of alcohol.

"(The son) didn’t survive," Parsons recalled. The woman and Parsons cried and talked, and Parsons realized they were in the same situation.

"We both lost a child," Parsons said. "Your child is dead and their life is over."

It’s hard to imagine having or wanting to repeat these tragic stories over and over, but Parsons said there’s a method to the madness.

"I have a special place that I go to when I do these talks," Parsons said. "Then when it’s done, I go back to the daily routine. But it is very painful to talk about."

Parsons said that, after enduring such tragedies, she and her family decided to move from Vancouver to Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island.

"Life’s much better these days," Parsons said.

Parsons ended her talk urging youth to make the right choices when it comes to drinking and driving, to not get in the car with someone who is under the influence and to help those under the influence to find an alternative way to get home safely.

"The ones who are making the choices are you," Parsons said.

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