New Year’s Eve Prep: Sidestep the Psychopath

Next week, I’ll officially kick off the Lifesaving Resolutions series with a hugely important topic: mindful driving. But I couldn’t let this holiday weekend pass by without addressing the psychopath in many celebratory rooms. Yes, that’s what I said, psychopath. Natalie Hartford was the first to use the term in this particular way… Lucky of us, she gave me the go-ahead to share her story.

From the moment I spotted Natalie’s blog, lush with hilarity and girlish yet sexy cuteness, I LOVED it. Let me in! I cried. And she did. I soon learned that this welcoming woman and her kin have endured more heartache than anyone should have to…because of the psychopath. Since then, Natalie’s made it her mission to prevent similar pain in others.

Impaired Driving – Our Story

By Natalie Hartford

A brutal before and after

On August 1, 2009, my mother-in-law (the beautiful Donna Kennie who I lovingly called Mamma K) was gunned down. I say gunned down because it feels like she was brutally murdered by a gun-wielding psychopath. Instead, it was a seemingly harmless driver who had one too many drinks and smoked some weed. Someone who likely thought he was “fine” to drive but clearly wasn’t when he cut sharply into the other lane.

It was a gorgeous sunny day. 2:30 in the afternoon.

A witness driving behind Mamma K testified in court that when the 1-ton truck slammed into Mamma K’s 2-door sunfire nearly head on, the force of the collision propelled the truck literally 10 feet in the air as it flipped over and landed on its hood sliding into the gravel. The impact tore the driver side door off her car. It was found imbedded in the truck’s front grill.

My Mamma K was nearly ripped in two and died almost instantly. She lived long enough to turn to her right as she took her final breath and see that her 16-year-old grandson (my step-son) was alive. He watched her mutilated body fade away to the afterlife before his very eyes. Now he lives with recurring nightmares and sleepless nights.

Trent Mallet was charged with impaired driving causing death.

And he did her family the honor (being sarcastic here) of pleading not-guilty to impaired driving causing death. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the Canadian justice system and Trent’s right to plead not guilty to try and get away with it. But that choice meant that my family was dragged through 18 months and over a dozen court dates before finally seeing this guy found guilty and sentenced for his crime (3 whole years…here’s another kick in the gut, he’ll be eligible for parole after serving 1 year…yip…he could serve 1 year for murder!).

The entire court process was like having a Band-Aid slowly torn off with salt pouring directly on an open, festering wound over and over again. We were unable to get closure, heal, or move forward having the hurt and anger stirred up every few months for nearly two years.

And then there was the added emotional roller coaster of not knowing from court date to court date what was going to happen next; were we going to win, was the criminal blood in or out (deemed inadmissible by the way), medical evidence admissible (it was), was he going to get off on a technicality (thankfully by sheer luck, he did not)? I can’t even begin to put into words the emotional torture this was to my family; the not knowing if he’d ever be held accountable for his choices and actions…for her murder.

And it doesn’t end. It doesn’t stop with a final round of court dates, sentencing, his eventual release etc. It lasts forever. It will reverberate through our lives forever. It will always be there. It will always haunt us.

Drunk drivers don’t discriminate against time of day. They don’t care where they are, if the road conditions are ideal, or if anyone will get hurt. Nothing matters to them because you see…they tell themselves they are ok to drive….they think their harmless…

I think they are gun wielding psychopaths!

The devastation that impaired driving inflicts on families is undeniable and unspeakable. Worse than that, it is senseless and 100% preventable. Mamma K never had to die!

Why ever take the chance? Why drive even after a drink or two; even if you feel fine? Why take the risk? What if you inadvertently murder some innocent person(s)…just to save a few bucks on a cab? It’s not worth it! It doesn’t make sense.

******

Natalie’s right. It doesn’t. Most of know the risks, yet drunk driving continues to kill approximately one person every 30 minutes. Many drunk drivers start with good intentions—prior to their drunken-gun-weilding psychopathology. They don’t believe they’ll hurt anyone (only happens to “other” people) and get behind the wheel out of confidence they won’t get caught. But they should get caught. New Year’s Eve is among the most common days of the year for alcohol-related accidents and fatalities.

To sidestep this psychopath, consider the following: 

  • Commit to not drinking and driving before you start drinking. (Now would be a prime time. ;)) Choose a reasonable amount of alcohol or none at all.
  • Share your commitment with others for added accountability.
  • Remember that not normally drinking, genetics and being female or petite increase alcohol sensitivity. (I won’t drive after one glass of champagne…)
  • Eat before you start drinking. A full stomach helps slow the rate of absorption.
  • Drink slowly to give your body time to handle the alcohol. Then allow time before any additional drinks.
  • Avoid caffeinated alcoholic beverages like the plague. Studies show that they don’t minimize drunken/grogginess, but make partakers feel less drunk, increasing the risk for accidents. They also heighten other risks, such as alcohol toxicity.
  • Know what you’re drinking. Don’t accept a drink with unknown ingredients.
  • Never leave drinks unattended. (I’ve seen Rohypnol in action—not pretty.)
  • If you’re the party host, serve food and stop serving alcohol a few hours before you expect the party to end. Provide non-alcoholic drinks for non-drinkers and designated drivers.
  • Never let a tipsy guest drive home. Call a taxicab, have a sober friend drive or urge the guest to stay the night.
  • Whether you’re drunk or sober, take extra caution when driving, particularly late at night. Allow extra room between cars and stay aware of other drivers. Keep your eye out for cars that swerve, sway or speed.
  • If you notice a dangerous driver, note the license plate, pull over then report it to the police.
.
Has your life been touched by drunk driving? What commitments have you made to guard against it? Any thoughts to share with Natalie? (She’s out of town at the moment, but I KNOW she’d love hearing from you. :))
.
Life is precious. Live yours well.
Leave a comment

31 Comments

  1. Very sad story.

    Happy New Year August!

    Reply
  2. Wow, excellent post August! Such an important topic during this time of year as well. Too many people get behind the wheel when they shouldn’t. I hope this reaches them and reminds them what the consequences can be when they make such a foolish decision.
    My thoughts and prayers go out to Natalie Hartford and her family. I hope that her story and your helpful tips can help lessen the occurrence of tragedies like this.
    Thank you for sharing!
    Jennifer

    Reply
  3. August, thank you so much for sharing Natalie’s story and your valuable tips at the bottom. Now when I go out, I have sweet Mamma K in the back of my mind and I make sure those around me are okay to drive (myself and hubs included). What Natalie’s family has had to endure (and continues to endure) is horrific and my heart goes out to them.

    If this can touch just one person, then it’s a benefit, but if it can touch one person and they pass it on, then maybe we’ll have safer roads.

    Happy New Year! Be safe out there, everyone!

    Reply
  4. This is such a sad, yet important story. It makes me feel stronger in my resolve to never drink and drive. It’s just not worth it. And taking a taxi is such a simple alternative, there really is no excuse. Thanks for sharing this, especially before the big drinking holiday. Me, I’ll be at home on the couch.

    Reply
    • Good for you, Emma! My own resolve was strengthened when I saw Tracy Gold on Oprah and again reading Natalie’s story.

      I’m looking forward to a quiet holiday as well. Hubby and I now celebrate the first primarily… We watch the sunrise and set, usually from cool places.

      Reply
    • You said it best Emma – it’s just not worth it! Here’s to many more sharing in your resolve to never drink and drive. Hope your New Year’s was wonderful!

      Reply
  5. As many already know, I lost my best friend to a drunk driver, so this story struck particularly close to home and had me in tears. This is such an important topic, and most never think about it until it changes their life forever.

    The man who killed my friend also plead “not guilty” despite the fact that he was driving with a suspended license due to two previous DUIs and had to borrow his girlfriend’s car because his was impounded (for the same reason). Unlike in Natalie’s story, this psychopath was found guilty of three separate charges, including second degree murder. He got 25 years. Instead of accepting responsibility for what he’d done, he unfortunately decided to appeal his convictions, dragging the process out even longer. I am happy to say his appeal was denied and he’s still in prison. I think that unless charging a drunk driver with murder becomes the norm, too many people won’t take it seriously and stop.

    Reply
    • I thought of you as I compiled this post, Marcy. My heart aches for you and Amanda’s, the loss and grief you’ve experienced… So glad that psychopath landed and remains behind bars. It certainly doesn’t make up for what he did, but it’s loads better than the alternative.

      I LOVE your point here: “I think that unless charging a drunk driver with murder becomes the norm, too many people won’t take it seriously and stop.” What a difference that would make… Thanks so much for sharing.

      Reply
    • Oh Marcy, I had no idea about your friend. That is devastating. My deepest sympathies to you and her family…
      I couldn’t agree more, until charging drunk drivers who kill with murder becomes the norm, they just won’t take it seriously. More sentences of 25 years is what is needed…3 years is simply not acceptable and sends a message of tolerance…and that is sickening!
      Here’s to our continued healing in the New Year!

      Reply
  6. thanks for the post, August. I am so glad we have tightened our provincial laws around drinking and driving. now it’s .05 blood alcohol level. So I don’t drink and drive but the new law will stop others who might have thought they were okay. One drink is too many. don’t drink and drive.

    Reply
  7. What an important post! I am so sorry for Natalie and her family. 1 person every 30 minutes…what a scary statistic.

    Reply
  8. Kourtney Heintz

     /  December 30, 2011

    I always remember the drunk driver destroys another family while he walks away. To me drunk driving is the most selfish act possible because the drunk driver always risks innocent lives. This is a heartwrenching post, but absolutely necessary at this time of year.

    Reply
  9. So glad to hear more people speaking out about this. My hubby loves that I don’t drink alcohol, he always has a designated driver!

    Reply
  10. This story is devastating and I’ve known about it for a while since Natalie is my wana711 friend. But every time I read about Mamma K tragic death I have tears in my eyes. Such injustice should never happen. I keep Mamma K, Natalie and her family in my prayers.

    Reply
  11. Thanks so much for your support, y’all! May we keep Natalie’s family and story near our hearts this holiday and always.

    Wishing you a joyous, safe New Year!

    Reply
  12. Hi August and Natalie.

    That’s a sad story that’s repeated to often in this world. It’s heartbreaking when bad things happen, but when justice can’t be served that a measure to the crime then theres heartbreak twice.

    I like your advice advice, it’s always the “common” sense that needs pointing out.

    Sorry I’m late, got a lot to do before going back to work!

    Happy new year.

    Reply
  13. Sniffff…thank you so much August for spreading the message about not drinking and driving and sharing our story. I can’t tell you how deeply touched and moved hubby and I are that we have people like you behind us, sharing the message, and offering such support…it means the world to us and makes all the difference. Thank you doesn’t even come close to expressing my gratitude. HUGS!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  14. Mamma K's Son

     /  January 2, 2012

    Thanks for spreading the word August – means the world!

    Protesting for a cause is SO how Mamma K lived her life – she’d be proud to be rocking the blogosphere – protesting for this cause!

    Reply
    • Touched that you stopped by! It’s obvious that Mamma K was so loved (still is) and special. Anything we can do to commemorate her and rock the blogosphere on her behalf, I’m for it! My thoughts and prayers will stay with you and your family.

      Reply
  15. Thank you August, for telling this story. Yours is the first blog I’ve seen this entire holiday season which addressed drunk driving (that isn’t to say there weren’t any – just that I didn’t see any). It is so important!
    My thoughts and prayers go out to Natalie Hartford and her family. I hope that someday you will find closure, and know that your loved one is with the Lord. Special prayers for your grandson, I cannot imagine how terrible it must be to live with this. My heart goes out to you and your family, to all of those who are victims of this crime.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: