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Warning against impaired driving
Forty vehicles in RTL-Westcan fleet to feature image of Fort Simpson teen

Jeanne Gagnon
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, September 26, 2013

Motorists in the NWT and throughout Western Canada will be receiving a sad and poignant warning of the dangers of impaired driving through the image of a Fort Simpson teenager killed in Fort Smith in 2008.

NNSL photo/graphic

Denise Dubyk, national president of MADD Canada, and Grant Mitchell, president and CEO of RTL-Westcan, stand next to one of the trucking company's tanker-trailers in Edmonton in August. The tanker-trailer contains an anti-impaired-driving message using the image of Keisha Trudel, a teenager who was killed in an impaired driving incident in Fort Smith in 2008. - photo courtesy of RTL-Westcan

Forty tanker-trailers of the Edmonton-based trucking company RTL-Westcan which operates extensively in the NWT will feature a large decal with a photo of Keisha Trudel, who died when she was just 16 years old.

For Keisha's mother, Sharon Allen of Fort Simpson, the awareness campaign is an important way that her daughter's memory can help prevent a similar tragedy from happening to others.

"I hope that drivers see Keisha's picture and it makes them realize that her death was completely preventable," Allen stated in a news release from RTL-Westcan. "I hope it will help people make safe and responsible choices. Arrange a sober ride home. Never ride with an impaired driver ... All of these things help save lives."

Along with the photo is a reminder to motorists to call police to report any driver they suspect is impaired.

Trudel is the second victim of impaired driving to be featured on RTL-Westcan's vehicles. In 2012, the company added decals to 40 trailers featuring the image of 16-year-old Michael Knox, who was killed in a crash with an impaired driver in Alberta.

The initiative is a joint effort of RTL-Westcan and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada.

"With Westcan being, of course, a bulk transport company and with their drivers being on the road all the time, it was decided that this would be an incredible impacting message for people to see on the back of a Westcan truck about young lives that are taken because of impaired driving," Denise Dubyk, the national president of MADD Canada, said from her Calgary office. "And there are many, many people that see these trucks on the road every day."

Dubyk said RTL-Westcan and MADD Canada receive many e-mails and texts from people who have seen the decals.

"They're all positive and they're all saying thank you very much for ensuring that people are reminded of the tragedy involved with impaired driving," she said.

RTL-Westcan and MADD Canada hope to prevent more tragic impaired driving crashes, deaths and injuries.

"It's making a difference that means so much for that family, too, because it means that their loved one is being honoured and remembered, and also their voice is still being heard," said Dubyk.

She said Sharon Allen has done incredible work in bring the message of MADD Canada to the NWT.

Jim Davis, managing director of RTL-Westcan in Calgary, said the company has entered into a multi-year partnership with MADD Canada and part of that partnership will include decaling trailers.

"We came to the conclusion that MADD was an excellent fit for us, given that we're on the road all the time, and highly visible," Davis told News/North. "It's something that affects everybody. Impaired driving has such a broad impact across everybody's world, really. This is something that we thought our employees would also support."

The decals will stay on the trailers for as long as they can withstand the elements.

Another image of a victim of impaired driving will be added to RTL-Westcan vehicles next year. MADD Canada selects the image and produces the decals, and RTL-Westcan adds them to its vehicles.

Davis said it was decided to place the decals on the backs of tanker-trailers because they would be very visible.

Trudel died on Nov. 23, 2008, after being thrown out a rear passenger window in an accident involving an SUV. The driver and two others in the single vehicle involved were uninjured.

The teenager, originally from Fort Simpson, was in Fort Smith with her mother, who was studying at Aurora College.

The 16-year-old driver pleaded guilty to a charge of dangerous driving causing death, and was sentenced to two years' probation, a five-year driving prohibition and 240 hours of community service. Court was told the driver had been drinking prior to the accident.

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