VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Beginning this weekend, police will be out in full force across the Lower Mainland as CounterAttack season gets underway for another year.
NEWS 1130 spoke with a man whose decision to drive under the influence 15 years ago has changed his life forever.
Kevin Brooks was 21-years-old when he got behind the wheel drunk and with his childhood friend by his side, he crashed on Highway 10 around 192nd Street in Surrey.
The pair was leaving a party and in addition to being impaired, he was speeding. “I kept going straight and struck a road divider, it’s like a little curb basically. But at the speed I was going, it launched my car in the air and it flew over another little road and it actually landed in this grassy embankment and just started rolling. The car was absolutely mangled. Brendon and I were both seriously hurt.”
“We were found pretty early on. Somebody had heard the breaking glass and thought it was someone breaking into cars and called the police and they showed up and it definitely wasn’t somebody breaking into cars.”
Brendon died in the car as paramedics tried to extract Brooks who was then rushed to the hospital. He was placed in a drug induced coma and woke up a month later to the news he was paralyzed from the chest down.
“Survival instincts kick in at that point. I had to learn how to breathe and that was like going off a breather and gasping for air, trying to strengthen a collapsed lung which happened in the crash — that took weeks. I had to learn how to eat. I had to learn how to go to the bathroom again. I couldn’t even sit up. I have to pull myself up and that took months of rehabilitation to be able to sit in a chair. It took four months of rehabilitation to shower and dress myself at 21-years-old.”
“There’s this huge guilt. You’re trying to cope with that and you’re also trying to sort out your life, which is in shambles and the ultimate goal is to be paralyzed with a dead friend and who the hell wants that? You’re almost working for your worst nightmare, in a sense, but your worst nightmare is the best case scenario at the same time.”
He admits in the years prior to the crash, he and his friends would, from time to time, drink and drive.
On the night of the crash, he recalls being too stubborn to let someone else take the wheel, but it took a crash of this severity for him to learn first-hand the effects of drinking and driving.
“I understand the consequences every single day. I wake up every single day and there’s a wheelchair beside me and I climb into that wheelchair and I face the world sitting down. Any one of those million obstacles every single day that didn’t exist before when I was walking… you know, I still look down at my feet and picture them on a skateboard or pair of skates.”
“I don’t feel sorry for myself. I never have. I don’t feel I have the right to feel sorry for myself. I make the most of it. I make the most of the situation in which I live and the forgiveness and support of Brendon’s family from early on — it was clear, I was going to do something with this, but it’s not say that any day, any moment I’m not reminded of Brandon and the fact he’s not here anymore.”
Brooks pled guilty to dangerous driving causing death and impaired driving causing death but Brendon’s family didn’t want him to go to jail and the judge agreed.
“His words to me were, ‘You’re a young man in a wheelchair for the rest of your life and you’ll be reminded of your friend’s death and the poor choices you made for every day of your life.’ And he said that life sentence, in his opinion, was worse than any bars he could put me behind.”
Brooks feels had this happened today, the court’s outcome would be much different.
He also has a message for anyone who gets behind the wheel impaired. “It’s selfish, for one. It’s just a loser move. I was making a lot of loser moves back in the day, I’ll admit that. It’s just not worth it. It’s not worth the consequences of hurting someone, killing someone, or hurting yourself. It’s an embarrassment. There are so many options out there, there are taxis, you can stay at someone’s house, you can plan ahead and rotate your designated driver.”
He thinks people are learning to understand the dangers and credits the province, police and people like him for getting the message out there.