A Mother’s Against Drinking and Driving memorial sign designated for the southbound side of Highway 2 in Edmonton to honour Yukoner Thomas Spinks who was killed near the site in 2017. (Submitted)

National signs honour victims of impaired driving

Yukon government says it would consider bringing the signs to the territory if approached

A memorial sign along the southbound side of Highway 2 in Edmonton, just south of Highway 41, honours Thomas Spinks who was killed near the site in 2017.

Spinks was originally from Whitehorse.

The sign — “In Memory of Thomas T.C. Spinks” — also bears the Mothers Against Drunk Driving red ribbon and was unveiled at a ceremony in Edmonton Feb. 5 before it was installed on the highway.

It is the second such sign in Alberta to honour those who have lost their lives to impaired drivers with other signs in place in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

The first was installed in Ontario in 2008.

Efforts are underway to have signs installed in British Columbia over the next year, with the focus then expected to turn to the Yukon, said Gillian Phillips, MADD Canada’s victim services manager for Western Canada, in a Feb. 11 interview.

In all jurisdictions where the signs are in place, there’s a memorandum of understanding between MADD and the provincial or territorial governments.

A permit must also be approved on each individual sign as well. There must also be a conviction of an impaired driving charge for the sign to be installed. MADD pays for any repairs or replacements needed to the signs.

Though most are on provincial highways, there are some cases where municipalities have agreed to install the signs along municipal roads. In those cases the bylaws of the individual municipality must be followed.

Yukon government Highways and Public Works spokesperson Oshea Jephson said the territory would consider permitting the signs should MADD come forward with a proposal.

“Highways and Public Works works closely with MADD to reduce and eliminate rates of impaired driving in the territory,” he said in an email. “We would be happy to consider permitting these signs if approached.

“Similar to other campaigns, we would work with MADD to gather the necessary permits for signs within the highway right-of-way. We could potentially coordinate with the City of Whitehorse if signage was to be installed on city roads.”

While 2019 statistics aren’t yet available, records from the Yukon Bureau of Statistics for between 2009 and 2018 show there were five convictions in the Yukon for impaired driving causing death — two in 2010 and one each in 2011, 2012, and 2014.

Convictions for impaired driving causing bodily harm were six times higher than that in the same period, with 35 cases between 2009 and 2018.

When it comes to other impaired driving convictions, 2018 had the highest number at 510 for those under the influence of alcohol and 2014 had the highest figure of 20 for those under the influence of drugs.

MADD estimates that on a national basis there’s between 1,250 and 1,500 people killed and more than 63,000 injured each year in impaired-related crashes, which includes all forms of transportation, such as boating along with driving a vehicle.

Phillips said the memorial signs throughout the country are aimed at honouring individuals who have lost their lives to impaired drivers as well as to prevent impaired driving.

The program grew out of the white cross movement, which sees white crosses installed at the scenes of fatal collisions in honour of those who died, she explained.

“It just kind of evolved from there,” she said.

Often near the scenes of fatal crashes, those who are grieving will place flowers and other mementoes to remember their loved one. It’s not long before those are removed from the roadside as clean up is done by work crews regularly. The signs provide a permanent way to honour those who have passed, Phillips said.

And so far the response to the signs has been “extremely positive,” Phillips said, adding she hasn’t heard “one negative thing from it”.

For families it means their loved one is remembered with a permanent installation that also serves as a reminder of why it’s so important to not drive impaired.

Thomas’ mother Heidi Spinks said it’s her hope those who pass the sign placed in honour of Thomas — and signs placed in honour of other impaired driving victims — will realize the devastating impact impaired driving can have and will choose not to drive impaired.

As Thomas’ father Tony Wentworth said at the unveiling: “My family and I cannot express adequately what this sign means to us. We now have a lasting marker to honour Thomas at the location where he was taken from us. From the depths of our hearts, we want to thank MADD Canada and everyone involved in making this happen. It is a source of light during an awful time.”

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

impaired drivingYukon

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes

adsf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. The proposed Atlin Hydro Expansion project is moving closer to development with a number of milestones reached by the Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited Partnership and Yukon Energy over the last several months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Atlin hydro project progresses

Officials reflect on milestones reached

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read