Prince Albert Now
March 19, 2019

Rod and Della Hicks don’t remember much the night of a fateful crash in 1983, but they’re still feeling the effects of it today, and say they will for the rest of their lives.

On July 12, 1983 Della and Rod were involved in an impaired driving accident, which has left them with scars they still bear to this day.

“It’s 36 years later and I don’t see this ever stopping.” – Della Hicks 

Della, 18, and Rod, 21, were travelling to Prince Albert from Shellbrook at approximately midnight when an impaired driver lost control of their vehicle, which sent them careening across the highway into oncoming traffic, and directly into the Hicks’ vehicle.

“A car carrying three individuals was coming the other direction. They were speeding, went to make the curve, because there’s a curve in the highway, they went off into the ditch, and to correct themselves came back sharply across the highway and just shot across and hit us directly head-on,” Della said.

Rod was trapped in the vehicle while she managed to crawl out.

The occupants of the impaired driver’s vehicle were from 16 to 19. All were killed.

During Rod’s entrapment, battery acid leaked onto his exposed flesh until first responders arrived. Rod’s leg was amputated as a result of the crash, while Della continues to battle daily pain after 12 surgeries.

“It’s been almost 36 years and we’re still dealing with the repercussions,” Della said.

Della added while a large spotlight is cast on younger impaired drivers, she sees many older individuals who still find it acceptable.

“I’m 54. A lot of times it seems like it’s our age group that doesn’t get it,” Della said. “It’s the farmer who thinks he’s driven the same road impaired for 50 years so it’ll be OK to do it another time. It’s the guy that’s at a club in P.A., who’s had a few drinks and thinks he’ll be OK. It’s amazing that people think they’re just going from here to there, and they don’t think about what can happen in between.”

In addition to more conversation about the impacts of impaired driving, Della said she believes the legal system is too easy on impaired drivers, and calls for harsher sentences.

“If you really want to know what it’s like, and see the aftermath, I’ll give you my address, and you can come on by and take a look at my leg, and my husband’s leg and listen to our story, and then maybe you’d understand.”

Impaired driving is an issue that hits home for a large majority of Canadians. Della and Rod reflected on their experience as part of national impaired driving week.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada four people are killed and 175 are injured in impairment-related crashes every day. Annually. MADD estimates between 1,250 and 1,500 people are killed and more than 63,000 are injured each year in Canada in impairment-related crashes.

March 17 to 23 is National Impaired Driving prevention week across Canada. Established in 2018 and designated for the third week of March every year, National Impaired Driving Prevention Week encourages all Canadians to help prevent impaired driving and keep roads safe.

Trina Cockle, president of the MADD Prince Albert chapter, said it was important to have a week to ramp up on awareness.

“As volunteers we can only do so much, so I think the main thing were going to focus on is just going to be spreading our message on social media,” Cockle said.

“I think people should know the impact (driving impaired) has on families. We all know when someone is killed in an impaired driving crash, that leaves the family devastated and changes their hopes and dreams. But you think about the rest of the people, whether it’s witnesses that saw the crash, EMT’s or police. It’s not just the victims and families, at the end of the day the entire community is affected.”

Cockle noted that as technology advances, so do the methods for arranging transportation when impaired, adding that we live in a world where it is now easier than ever to arrange a safe ride home.