Officer who loses mother in drunk driving crash urges drivers to be safe during holidays

November 20, 2018 06:59 PM

A Big Lake police officer hopes his story will help keep impaired drivers off the road. His mother, Patricia Kalla, was killed by a drunk driver in 2012.

Police Cpl. Joe Kalla opened up about the crash on Tuesday as the Department of Public Safety announced increased patrols during the holidays.


“She was especially known for her smile and positive attitude,” said Kalla. “My Mom was my best friend and I have some of the best memories and wisdom from her."

Kalla said on Sept. 16, 2012 his mother and her boyfriend John headed out for one last motorcycle ride of the season.

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“It was a beautiful day, probably the best fall day you could ask for,” said Kalla. “I received a text from her that said, ‘Love you XXOO’ in all capital letters. I never had the opportunity to reply to her while she was alive.”

A woman driving an SUV, while drunk, made a U-turn in front of the motorcycle. The vehicles collided and Patricia and John died instantly.

“A woman left a bar nearby and admitted to having seven whiskey sour drinks in a 30 minute period,” said Kalla. “She drove her friend’s vehicle after asking for the keys.”

Joined by dozens of other law enforcement officers, he urged drivers to plan ahead during the holidays. His twin brother, a paramedic, also attended the press conference.

“Speak up if you see someone who shouldn't be driving, say something,” said Kalla. “You can stop something before it happens.”

Officials are also concerned about drugged driving over the holidays in addition to drunk driving. According to Minnesota's Department of Public Safety, alcohol-involved DWI incidents have decreased over the past four years compared to the four years prior while the number of controlled substance DWIs have increased during the same time frame.

Minnesota State Patrol and more than 300 law enforcement agencies will do extra patrols from Nov. 21 through Dec. 29, on weekends.

“With one thing and one thing only on their agenda, that is to find and remove impaired drivers from the roads,” said Mike Hanson, the Office of Traffic Safety director.
Over the last five years, 28 people have been killed during the holidays because of impaired driving.

“These are preventable crashes that do not have to happen,” he said. “There are too many options across Minnesota for all of us to take advantage of so we don’t have to be put in that position.”

According to DPS, last year during a 12-hour period on Wednesday night into Thanksgiving morning, 133 drivers were arrested for DWI. For comparison, during a 48-hour period on a typical Wednesday to Thursday, roughly 100 people are arrested statewide for DWI.

“We need to hold each other accountable and make sure we're all doing our job to speak up,” said State Patrol Lt. Gordon Shank.

He urges drivers to arrange sober rides ahead of time.

“Be smart, plan ahead, have a good holiday and make it home to their family,” said Shank. “I’ve had to tell families that their family member will never come home for the holidays again, that sticks with me and never goes away. I don’t want that to happen.”

Officers across the state will be working overtime during the DWI enforcement. It's funded through an $894,000 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration grant.

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Callan Gray

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