Drink driving is still one of the biggest killers on roads despite society being aware it is unacceptable. AASMA DAY talks to Maria Hodgson who lost her husband in a crash caused by a drink driver who also died in the smash together with his passenger. Maria talks about why she is supporting our Drive For Justice campaign to fight for harsher punishments for those who kill or seriously injure on our roads.
“I’m glad the man who caused my husband’s death by drink driving did not survive. I know that is a horrible thing to say, but it would be a lot worse to endure if he was living his life when Brian’s was taken away.”
Maria Hodgson, of Ashton, Preston, says she is not a vindictive person but firmly believes she could not have coped if the man who caused the untimely death of her husband Brian at the age of 41 had survived and been free to live his life.
Maria explains: “The drink driver did not deserve to live. He killed two other men who had families.
“At least the man who did this to us got a life sentence too.
“If he had lived and then gone to court and got the maximum sentence of 14 years, I would have felt at least he’d paid his dues in some way.
“But if he had got something like three years and only served 18 months, it would have been unbearable.
“I don’t know how families who have lost someone in this way cope with such an outcome.
“In a lot of cases, the person will serve a short or no sentence and come back out and carry on with their life and forget about the pain they caused.
“At least I was spared the court case and have to go through the pain of seeing the culprit get a lenient sentence.”
Maria, who has three children - Nicola, 37 - who was 14 at the time of her dad’s death and twins Lisa and Martin, now 36 but 12 at the time - had been married to Brian for 17 years at the time of the tragedy in December 1992.
The family were living in Penwortham, near Preston, at the time.
Brian, who worked as a senior manager in computing for a building society, had travelled to Leicester that morning and returned to his office in Bootle later that afternoon to check on things.
Maria recalls: “Brian called me at about 6.45pm and told me he was leaving work to set off home.
“At 7pm, I went to a PTFA event at my children’s school and about an hour later, I was told there was a phone call for me in the office.
“It was my daughter Nicola telling me her dad hadn’t come home so I left the school straight away and went home.
“I knew something was wrong as Brian should have been home by then.
“I called his office and they said he had definitely left and suggested he might have stopped for a drink on the way home. But I knew he would never do that.”
By 8.30pm, Maria was very concerned and called the police headquarters and told them her husband still hadn’t come home.
Maria says: “Then the doorbell rang and it was a policeman. He asked if I was Mrs Hodgson and told me I had to come to Ormskirk Hospital with him as there had been an incident on the road.
“When I got to the hospital, we went inside and I was pacing around. Then a different policeman and a nurse came and told me to go with them.
“When I asked where we were going, they said: ‘the mortuary.’
“I could not believe it and it didn’t sink in. When we went into the room, at first I thought: ‘Is that him?’ as Brian wore glasses and did not have them on.
“But then I walked closer and realised it was Brian. It was horrible and I just felt sick.”
Maria had to face the ordeal of returning home and telling her children their father had died in a crash.
The family’s grief was exacerbated by discovering that the crash had been caused when the driver of a Bentley Turbo hit Brian’s car.
The driver was later found to be two-and-half times over the drink-drive limit. His passenger, another man, also died in the smash.
Maria says: “The driver had been drinking and was speeding. The inquest revealed he was a businessman who had been in the pub all afternoon with some staff.
“He then drove with a younger man who worked for him as a passenger and one person at the witness described him as ‘driving like a rocket’.
“He was two-and-a-half times over the legal limit for drink and lost control and ended up on the other side of the road and hit Brian head-on.
“The driver and his passenger died in the crash as well as Brian.
“The inquest gave a verdict of unlawful killing so I felt at least we had got some sort of justice for Brian.
“I felt so angry at the man who caused this and what he had taken from us because he was drinking and driving.
“Our life changed forever because of one person’s thoughtless actions.
“The driver had a family and children too.
“All I could think was, ‘What a selfish person to do that when he had a family as well.’”
Maria experienced another tragedy in 2007 when her older sister was killed crossing a road in Turkey.
She is now full behind the Drive For Justice campaign as she believes justice is needed for families who lose someone due to another driver’s criminal behaviour on the roads.
She says: “You can never replace your loved one or bring them back but there should be payback for an offender.”