Patricia Hynes-Coates, left, MADD Canada national president, and Kim Hancock are overcome with emotion during the launch of MADD Canada's national holiday awareness campaign, Project Red Ribbon, in Sudbury, Ont. on Tuesday November 1, 2016

Kim and Dean Hancock never imagined they would bury their own son, let alone stand helpless on the side of a highway, amid a scene of flashing lights, twisted metal and broken glass, while D.J. Hancock's life faded.

They had high hopes for their son, born Dean Maxwell Junior on Feb. 28, 1996. His mother though he might be an architect, perhaps take over his father's business.

He was bubbly, active, outgoing, well-liked by his friends and close with his parents and his older sister, Jaymie-Lyne. He talked about having a big family of his own, maybe 10 kids.

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, 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 on Tuesday, 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.

D.J.'s story is not unique, sadly, as local police can attest and as the Hancocks have learned from their visits to victims' conferences and their dealings with anti-drinking-and-driving organizations such as MADD Canada, as well as local groups Action Sudbury and Impact 6/21.

All were represented at Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex on Tuesday, during the launch of MADD's latest Project Red Ribbon sober driving holiday campaign, running Nov. 1 to Jan. 2, to raise awareness about the tragic toll of impaired driving.

"Stories like ours can happen to anyone," Kim said. "Lives can change in the blink of an eye, all because of a choice to get behind the wheel impaired – and it is a choice.

"These red ribbon campaigns have become a big part of our lives since D.J.'s life was taken. If we can make enough of an impact to save one family from the pain and suffering that goes along with impaired driving, then it is all worth it."

MADD Canada launched Project Red Ribbon in conjunction with the official start of the Big Nickel Hockey Tournament, the premier minor hockey showcase in Northern Ontario, as a tribute to D.J. Hancock, who played in the tournament five times.

Project Red Ribbon materials, distributed across Canada, will feature a photo of D.J. and the message "Impaired Drivers Create Penalties that Never End."

MADD also produced a video about D.J. and his death, featuring interviews with Kim, Dean and Jaymie-Lyne, which was played at the launch event.

It hit close to home for Patricia Hynes-Coates, MADD Canada national president, whose stepson Nicholas was killed by a drunk driver in 2013.

"That man could have stayed home, he could have called a cab, he could have called a friend," Hynes-Coates said. "But instead, he made a choice to get behind that wheel of that vehicle, and because of that, Nicholas is no longer with us.

"It's for Nicholas, for D.J. and for all the innocent victims of impaired driving that we're here today to launch our holiday sober driving awareness campaign."

For nearly 30 years, MADD Canada's red ribbon has been a symbol of the fight against impaired driving, and the focal point of a yearly campaign where volunteers go into the community and distribute ribbons to be displayed on vehicles or worn on key chains, purses, briefcases and backpacks.

They do it to spread a simple message, but one that bears repeating in a country where there were a reported 1,082 impairment-related motor-vehicle fatalities in 2010 – a statistic MADD considers to be a conservative estimate.

"It is never, ever acceptable to drive while impaired by drugs or alcohol," Hynes-Coates said. "So we're asking people to get the red ribbon. We ask you to tie it, we ask you to show it, wear it and live it. Because if we can all do that, we can work together to make changes."

Project Red Ribbon

MADD Canada's longest-running awareness program, Project Red Ribbon is hosted over the holiday season because it’s a busy time on most social calendars. With holiday parties and celebrations plentiful, the risk for impaired driving is especially high.

MADD Canada’s red ribbon is a small but powerful symbol of the wearer’s commitment to sober driving. Throughout November and December, MADD Canada chapters and community leaders will distribute millions of ribbons for Canadians to wear and display as a reminder to:

- Never drive impaired or ride with an impaired driver.

- Plan ahead if you’re going to be drinking. Take a cab or bus, arrange a designated driver or plan to stay over.

- Call 911 you see a driver you suspect is impaired. For information on the signs of an impaired driver and what to     do, visit the campaign 911 page.

The red ribbon also serves as a poignant tribute to the hundreds of victims killed and thousands of victims injured each year in impairment-related crashes.

Red ribbons are available through the MADD Canada website, chapters and community leaders, Allstate Canada offices across the country and participating sponsor outlets.

Source: The Sudbury Star


Last updated on: 2016-12-06 | Link to this post