Postmedia Network
November 29, 2018

The picture of a Sudbury teen killed by a drunk driver is part of a display warning people in Northern Ontario about the dangers of impaired driving.

You don’t realize the impact drunk driving has until you see the faces put to the names, said Sheri Yank, who works at the North Bay All State Insurance office, and was manning a Mothers Against Drunk Driving booth in that community recently.

At the booth is a large pull-up display with hundreds of pictures of people killed over the years by drunk drivers.

“It really hits home when you see it,” Yank said, pointing at a picture of Alexander Fleming, who was less than one year old when he was killed in a drunk-driving crash.

There’s another picture of Dean (DJ) Hancock, from Sudbury, who was killed in a drunk-driving collision. His parents were travelling in another vehicle and came upon the crash site moments later.

On Aug. 21, 2014, at around 11 p.m., the Hancocks left T.M. Davies Community Centre in Lively, where 18-year-old D.J. took part in tryouts for the Sudbury Nickel Barons, then a team in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.

D.J. was in one car, his parents following in another, as they headed for their home in Sudbury. Dean remembers looking ahead, seeing the taillights of his son’s car, then pulling into Tim Hortons for a quick stop.

Minutes later, they were on the road again, driving down the Highway 17 bypass. It wasn’t long before they came on the scene of a serious collision.

Kim immediately texted D.J., but got no reply. Dean got out of the vehicle, told her to wait, not to worry. It wasn’t him. Couldn’t be him.

It was. Not far away was their son’s car, the driver’s side nearly destroyed from a near head-on impact with a pickup truck. D.J. was pinned inside, his legs crushed, arms broken, bleeding.

“He drove up to the crash where D.J. was pinned in his car and still alive,” Kim Hancock recalled two years ago, during a press conference for Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada. “Approximately one hour after, he still remained pinned in his car and passed away at that time.”

D.J. Hancock was 18.

One day later, the Hancocks learned just how senseless, how needless, how preventable their son’s death had been. The pickup driver, 39-year-old Walter Carter of Lively, had been drinking and had three times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood at the time of the crash.

Carter eventually pleaded guilty to several charges, including impaired driving causing death, and was sentenced to five years in jail.

In North Bay, the MADD Nipissing chapter used the display and booth to launch its Project Red Ribbon campaign to prevent impaired driving over the holiday season.

Warning against drunk driving is “crucial to the safety of everyone,” said chapter president Erin Celebre.

“The main issue is people feel they are immune to the effects of alcohol, but they’re not,” Celebre said. “It’s not worth taking the chance.”

A simple measure, Celebre said, is to carry a small red ribbon to remind drivers “they need to be sober and remember those affected by drunk driving.”

Project Red Ribbon is MADD Canada’s largest and longest-running public awareness campaign. It’s aimed at raising awareness about the risks of impaired driving during the holiday season and encourages motorists to always drive sober.

On average, four Canadians are killed and 175 are injured daily due to impairment-related crashes.

– with files from Ben Leeson of The Sudbury Star.