Students of North Dundas District High School were in attendance at Kevin Brooks’ presentation, hoping to spread the message of the dangers of impaired driving to others in Dundas County. Glover photo
KEMPTVILLE – Everybody can make that one wrong decision that they can still regret no matter how much time has passed.
However, Kevin Brooks, a public speaker and comedian, made a mistake 18 years ago that not only impacted his life, but everyone around him; and the wheelchair he wakes up next to each morning is a constant reminder of this terrible mistake.
Brooks spoke at a recent Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving (OSAID) conference about his one wrong decision Mon., Nov. 19 at the Kemptville Municipal Building to students from 20 different schools in the area.
What started as a typical summer June day of the new millennium, ended in the worst way possible because Brooks got behind the wheel while intoxicated.
“I was with my hockey buddies and the party was on. We were crushing beers and we decided to leave that party in my vehicle, obviously not smart,” said Brooks. “Could’ve called a taxi, chipped in a few bucks each and had a safe ride home, could’ve made that good choice. A decision that we would have no regrets with.”
Unfortunately, Brooks did not make this decision and thought he was good enough to get behind the wheel after excessive drinking. He was so confident in his driving abilities that night, he almost doubled the speed limit.
“My buddy Brendon, a buddy I grew up with, he decides he’s not taking that taxi ride either and he jumps in the vehicle with me,” he said. “I look back on that night and I see much more, a crossroad, another chance to make a right choice and instead, we’re making bad choices. We’re driving, we’re going to a party and we’re going to keep this thing going, but we never made it. I was driving fast, doing a 130 km/h in a 70 zone, way too fast even if I was sober. I wasn’t just drunk, I was excessively drunk and I wasn’t just speeding, I was excessively speeding, totally distracted.”
A simple curb, no more than six inches, was the cause of Brooks’ accident. Most would be able to drive through an obstacle like that but the speed Brooks was going, mixed with all the other distractions, was enough to seal his fate.
“That little curb was enough to launch the car in the air, it flew and when it hit the ground, it rolled, I don’t know how many times until it stopped upside down as a mangled mess,” he said. “I hit my head, very serious head injury. Brendon also had a very serious life-changing head injury. I also sustained a dislocated shoulder, busted ribs, fractured vertebrae, damaged spinal cord and a collapsed lung.”
Brooks had little memory of that terrible night and had learned the details from his mother on a hospital bed. Despite learning the horrible reality that the damage to his spinal cord resulted in him being wheelchair bound for the rest of his life, that was nothing compared to learning the tragic fate of his best friend.
“At one point, I asked her what happened and I was told it was a car crash and I wasn’t surprised to hear that with the way I drove. I was pushing my luck and finally my luck ran out. I’m paralyzed and there’s no cure,” he said. “Laying in a hospital bed, it really felt my life had come to an end but all I hoped for was for my friends to be okay. I didn’t know who I was with so I started listing names and my mom said “no” and a sense of relief came over me. But then I was told Brendon was with me and I asked how he was doing. She just said to me, ‘Kevin, Brendon died. Brendon’s dead, I’m really sorry.’”
Throughout his speech, Kevin liked to crack a few jokes for the audience to ease the tension but he couldn’t manage that while talking about his deceased friend. Brooks continued to recount his experience with meeting Brendon’s parents, the fear of being able to face them after what he had done.
After an emotional talk, Brendon’s father told him that his son made the decision to get in that vehicle. Just like Brooks, Brendon too made that one wrong decision.
After Brooks finished his speech to the students, he showed a short video of his journey, his time in the hospital, time with his family, the before and after shot of the vehicle and, a dedication to Brendon.
Cindy Steele, a member of the board of directors of Ontario, said that “the conference wanted to empower students to go back their schools and community to raise awareness and educate others about the dangers of impaired driving.”
She added, “This year, there was a focus on the legalization of cannabis because of the changes in the legalization but it’s always been a part of the message we want to send out to the students.”