When a drunk driver killed their only daughter in 2008 while the four-year-old petted a horse on the side of the road in Ladner, the Middelaers rallied hard in the public spotlight to tighten enforcement around drinking and driving laws.
Since then a change in legislation has made penalties for impaired driving stiffer and easier to impose.
Officers who are the most diligent in getting drunk drivers off the road are recognized as part of Alexa's Team, a force created by the Middelaer family and the BCAA Road Safety Foundation in conjunction with municipal police and RCMP.
Five officers from the Sea to Sky corridor were recently added to the team: Cst. Evo Sokerov of Sea to Sky Traffic Services; Cst. Terry Gillespie of Squamish RCMP; and Csts. Cheryl (Codi) Lee, John (Scott) Stables and Afzeel Yakub of Whistler/Pemberton.
"Knowing that impaired driving is the number one cause of criminal death in
B.C., knowing that on average two British Columbians die each week due to impaired driving, and knowing that this is how our four-year-old daughter was killed is almost unbelievable, and I am sure that everyone reading this would concur," Laurel Middelaer, the mother of Alexa, stated in a press release.
"There are hundreds of families in B.C. that share our experience. As a family we choose to look for solutions. We are working with others to make this province and this country safer."
Since Alexa¹s Team was formed three years ago, member officers have removed 18,810 drivers from B.C. roads whose ability to safely operate a motor vehicle was affected by alcohol or drugs.
To join the team, officers must have forwarded to Crown a minimum of 10 full impaired driving charges and/or issued 90-Day Driving Prohibitions under the new
Immediate Roadside Prohibition sanctions. In addition, these members have issued thousands of 24-hour, three day and seven-day driving prohibitions in 2010.
"What it comes down to is it takes so long for police officers to process impaired drivers and so we really wanted to do something that would really give them that extra incentive, to show that it's really worth it," said Lennea Durant, media relations officer for the BCAA Road Safety Foundation. "Alexa's parents thought if they went out and met these people personally, and presented them with some sort of recognition for it, that it would inspire them and that's what has happened."
Since 2008 the Foundation has honoured 419 officers from around the province. Cpl. Scott Bowden, Sea to Sky watch commander for Evo Sokero, said the motivation of Alexa's Team is useful, especially when people continue to drink and drive.
"It still amazes me that with all the legislation and sanctions that are already in place with additions as of September 20, the education through the media, ICBC, the police and so on, that people still take the chance of drinking and driving," he said. "They still have open liquor in the vehicle, and actually even drink while driving, which actually occurred on Friday night."