DRINK driving DRINK 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.
“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 she 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.
The person who answered the call told her they would check if there had been any incidents and call her back.
Maria says: “I waited and was starting to panic.
“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.
“I rang my cousin and his wife stayed with my children while he came with me in the police car.
“I just felt sick and can remember the terrible sound of the siren and sitting in the back of the car hoping that if Brian was hurt, he would be okay.
“When we got to the hospital, we went inside and I was pacing around while we were waiting.
“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.
“Brian had left for work in the morning, said: ‘Goodbye, I’ll see you tonight’ and then called for a chat.
“Then suddenly, he was gone and I knew I’d never have that again.”
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, who now has a new partner Derek who she met eight-and-a-half years later, says the pain she felt at Brian’s death is indescribable.
She explains: “Yo feel utterly desolated.
“There are no more hugs from someone you have loved for years, no goodbye kiss in the morning and all the plans you had made for the future are all suddenly wiped out.
“Now, my main feeling is one of sorrow for my children who never got to know the man, only the dad.
“Brian missed out on so much too. He never got to know his children when they grew up.
“He never got to see them graduate or to see his three grandchildren. He never got to go for a pint with our son Martin.
“Brian worked so hard from the age of 16 but he never got to reap the benefits and he missed out on so much.”
Maria experienced another tragedy in 2007 when her older sister was killed crossing a road in Turkey.
Maria says: “I was very close to my sister as it was only the two of us and she supported me through losing Brian.
“It was horrendous to lose someone else to a death on the roads.”
Maria was involved with the charity RoadPeace for many years which supports victims of road crashes.
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.
“At the moment, there is very little punishment and there are different sentences all over the country.
“If a driver kills someone due to their actions on the road, in my view, they should get the maximum sentence of 14 years.”
• Sign the Drive For Justice petition here:- www.change.org/p/uk-parliament-deliver-stiffer-punishments-for-drivers-who-kill-or-seriously-injure-on-uk-roads
• DRINK driving is still one of the biggest killers on roads.
It is responsible for at least 240 deaths a year (14 per cent of all road deaths) and another 1,100 serious injuries.
Currently, drink-drivers face an automatic ban and up to six months in jail, but the penalties are the same no matter how many times they re-offend.
Gary Rae, campaigns director at road safety charity Brake, says: “Drink driving remains one of the biggest killers on our roads.
“One in seven road deaths are at the hands of someone who got behind the wheel over the limit.
“Many more casualties may be caused by drivers who have had a drink but are under the limit as even this makes you at least three times more likely to die in a crash.
“Drug driving is also a widespread menace: the equivalent of one million UK drivers admit to it, causing an estimated 200 deaths every year.
“We are calling for zero-tolerance on drink and drug driving from the public and the Government.
“We’re calling on drivers to pledge to never drink or take drugs and drive – because even small amounts of alcohol or drugs affect your ability to drive safely.
“We are calling on Government to introduce tougher laws and enforcement.
“The government must also enable police to step up enforcement by making roads policing a national policing priority so more resources are invested in catching drunk, drugged and other dangerous drivers.
“The police also need powers to carry out targeted testing to provide a stronger deterrent.”