When Jennifer Musson received the call from the hospital that her sister had been in a car accident, she prepared herself for the worst.
But nothing could prepare her for the news that her sister, Jessica Ondejko, 22, was killed instantly when a drunk driver slammed into her car. It was May 8, 2008 at 7:22 a.m and Ondejko was driving along Front Road on her way to work. The driver, Scott Renaud, was convicted of impaired driving causing death and spent two years in jail.
“Jessica’s death was not accidental,” she said during Thursday’s annual kickoff of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s Red Ribbon campaign. “It’s not fair that Jessica died because of someone’s choice to drive impaired.
“It’s not acceptable that we live with the memory of seeing her dead on a table, covered with a white sheet, one leg and arm longer than the other, chest caved in and shards of windshield still in her knuckle all because of someone’s irresponsible decision.”
It’s been eight years since Jessica’s death and Musson said it doesn’t get easier. It’s taken her years to be able to drive on Front Road and by the crash site which now has a sign in memory of Jessica.
“My family as a whole is gone and will never be the same,” she said. “Killing a person from impaired driving doesn’t just take away the person who died. It changes everyone that knew them.”
MADD’s campaign kickoff at Anderson Funeral Home was supported by Windsor and Essex County police officers, firefighters, and EMS workers.
Chaouki Hamka, community leader for MADD Windsor and Essex, said the red ribbons are a symbol of a commitment to drive safe and sober and to also remind others to do the same. They are also a poignant tribute to the victims killed and injured every year.
“We are here to eliminate impaired driving and to keep our roads safe,” he said. “Sometimes it sounds like a broken record because we are always coming out with the same message: Don’t drive impaired. Make responsible choices. Arrange for a safe ride home. But are people getting the message? Yes, they are.”
Hamka said research and statistics show the message is getting out. He said most are making responsible choices and not jumping behind the wheel while impaired. But there is still more work to be done.
“There are still some people who don’t think impaired driving is as bad as it is,” he said. “There’s always that misconceptions that as long as they don’t get caught or hurt anyone it’s not a big deal. But it’s a gamble and why take the chance.”
Project Red Ribbon runs until Jan. 3. Red ribbons are available through the MADD Canada web site and members as well as Allstate Canada offices across the country.
Source: Windsor Star