The view from our driveway last night

6:40 pm

Last night we emerged for our post-dinner stroll to find police crews roping off our street.  A block away, a female driver had wrapped her car around a hydro pole.  As we walked in the opposite direction, we saw that her car have been swerving down the street for over a kilometer, riding up on the boulevard and sidewalk and hitting trees, street signs and parked cars along the way.

Though officials have yet to confirm that alcohol was a factor in the crash, based on the evidence on our street and eyewitness accounts I will assume the driver’s blood level far exceeded legal limits.  Neighbours said they saw the women at the local bar down the street, enjoying the warm weather with drinks on the patio all afternoon.  According to onlookers, by 4:00 pm she was visibly inebriated.

Miraculously no one was hurt but the driver, who was airlifted to hospital with life threatening injuries.  Neighbourhood gossip has it that a couple of dog walkers and local boys on bikes narrowly escaped the path of destruction.

I embraced Tess and kissed her forehead.  Just an hour earlier we had been cycling down the street, with Tess in her child seat, happily enjoying the sunshine.  What if this driver had decided to leave the bar an hour earlier?  What if we had stayed at our play date an hour later?  Despite our regular caution, including helmets, signals and strict adherence to all rules of the road, nothing could have protected us from a drunk driver.  The thought made me sick to my stomach.

I thought about our street at dinnertime on a lovely spring evening, the sidewalks filled with families, pets, and seniors out for a stroll.  Cyclists out for their evening rides.  Children in strollers out for one last happy walk before bedtime.  It’s a beautiful scene, and a big part of why I love our neighbourhood.  But, in an instant, the crash had robbed us of our carefree evening and had us pondering “what if….”

I sifted our local paper this morning for news on the crash and found a single cold, fact-filled paragraph.  Though I knew this was standard reporting for such an incident, for some reason I felt cheated.  What about our tightly knit lakeside community?  What about the destruction to the places where our kids learn to ride their bikes?  Where families gather before church?  Where neighbours come together?  Even if for an evening, the innocence of our street had been taken from us.

The next day I find myself wondering how we can take back our street.  Yes, we could insist on regular police checks by the bar district.  We could pour money into anti drunk-driving campaigns.  I’m sure these measures would make some difference.  But my fear extends beyond drunk driving to those driving down my street on their cell phones.  I even fear myself, fiddling with the radio or trying to retrieve the baby’s pacifier while behind the wheel.  We continually fail to recognize that our vehicles are potentially fatal machines and a single distraction is an avenue for the unthinkable.  Needless to say, my contempt for cars has become entrenched.

The solution?  Drive less. Walk your kids to school.  Ride your bike to work.  And for heaven’s sake: if you’ve been drinking, do not get behind the wheel.  We are less of a menace to our neighbourhoods when our modes of transportation are powered by us and us alone.

I sincerely hope the driver recovers from her injuries and uses this experience in a way that positively contributes to the community.  My heart goes out to her family and friends during this difficult time.