What could it hurt to have a couple drinks and drive?
Guest speaker talks about what life can be like when one survives a drunken driving accident

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[July 25, 2017]  LINCOLN - On Wednesday night, around a dozen people met at the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital to attend a Victim Impact Panel. The panel, which was led by Dan Hicks, consisted of a brief talk and a series of photos concerning the consequences of drinking and driving under the influence of alcohol.

Hicks works with SIU to promote awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving, and he visits many schools and hospitals in central Illinois. Hicks said he recently passed twenty-seven years since he himself was involved in a single-car accident after he and his friends had been drinking. Shortly after his accident, he began to work with the school to spread awareness and knowledge to prevent others from making the same choice.

Hicks suffered head and spinal trauma, resulting in short-term memory issues and paralysis below the waist. Hicks also said that after the accident, he spent nearly a month in a coma. Hicks was the only survivor of the accident. Hicks said he thinks a lot about the family members his friends left behind. “Some of them still drink,” said Hicks.

Hicks went into detail on aspects of his everyday life since he was paralyzed. He showed pictures of his home, where he needs ramps to get inside, and has to use an extended grabber to reach objects on high shelves. Hicks also showed pictures of his car dashboard, which has attachments to help press the acceleration and brake pedals, since he cannot use his feet.

“They had to teach me how to do everything in a wheelchair,” said Hicks. Hicks said he had to learn how to move about in his wheelchair, and how to get in and out of it around his home. Hicks also said he is lucky he can get in and out of his chair without help, as he has met people who become completely paralyzed after drinking and driving and getting into an accident. He said that even everyday conversation is completely different in a wheel chair, because sitting in the chair makes him look shorter.

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Hicks said that while he still has the use of his hands, other victims he has met as part of these panels are not so lucky. He talked about the people who, because they are quadriplegics, need help with everything, including bathing themselves and getting dressed every day.

Hicks also emphasized the emotional impact of drunk driving on family members and friends if someone passes away because of an accident. Hicks said that whenever he talks to family members who have lost someone this way, the children are the most confused. “They don’t know or understand why that person is gone,” he said.

Hicks also said that he attends funerals of people who pass away because of drunk driving. “These are people that have to be put in a coffin because they chose to get behind the wheel,” said Hicks.

Throughout the panel, Hicks emphasized several times that it is never a good decision to get in a vehicle while intoxicated, or with a driver who is intoxicated. “Your luck will eventually run out,” said Hicks.

Everyone who attended the panel was given a list of resources in Illinois, including various health facilities, rehabilitation centers, locations and dates for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and wellness centers. Additionally, everyone was handed a certificate of attendance.

[Derek Hurley]

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