First roadside memorial sign to honour victim of impaired driving installed in Alberta
The province has partnered with MADD Canada to unveil the first roadside memorial sign in the province which honours a victim of impaired driving while acting as a deterrent for other drivers.
The sign, located on Highway 22, just north of Highway 1, is in memory of Alfred Benary, who left behind a wife and two daughters.
The 55-year-old died in October 2015 from injuries suffered when he was hit by an impaired driver a few weeks earlier.
Benary’s wife, Adele Dirks, said she hopes the sign sends a valuable message to drivers.
“Giving people awareness that there’s a problem and hoping people will be concerned by the number of signs that they see and make other choices, and bully their friends into making better choices.” she said.
Dirks said her husband was driving home after doing some fencing work on a family property in Water Valley, north of where the crash happened.
“We hope when people see the sign that it will give them pause to stop and think and to know that somebody was killed there through an impaired driver,” said Gillian Phillips, MADD Canada Victim Services Manager.
According to the province, in the five years leading up to March 2018, more than 34,0000 Albertans were convicted of impaired-driving related offences, an average of 6,800 per year.
“It’s a huge number,” said Insp. Jason Graw with the Alberta Sheriff Highway Patrol.
“We’ve been seeing that number in Alberta decline over the last few years but I want to get that number down to zero, one impaired driving-related fatality in this province is too many.”
Graw said the roadside memorial is a reminder more work needs to be done to combat impaired driving in the province.
Phillips said this crash site was chosen for the first sign in the province because Benary’s death impacted a lot of people.
“For a lot of people it was very memorable, a lot of people remember Alfred and what happened to him … and we wanted to pick an area where it would be highly visible as well,” she said.
Phillips said there are plans for two more signs to be installed this year, and for the initiative to continue next spring.
“We believe as MADD does, that pointing out the damage done including the loss of life is one of the strongest ways to tell that story and get that message out,” said Transportation Minister Ric McIver.
“This is the first sign in Alberta, and wouldn’t it be great if this was the last sign in Alberta. But I fear based on past statistics that there will be more impaired driving, more deaths and more damage as a result and we can hope for not.”