LAKE ELMO, MN – On February 27, 2018, it took only eight seconds for Samuel Hick to take a peek at his phone and cause a fatal crash that will haunt him for the rest of his life.
On this fateful day, Hicks thought it would cause no harm if he looked at a message from his girlfriend on his phone. It took eight seconds of distraction by the phone for Hicks to slam into the back of a Toyota Scion that was stopped at a red light at Lake Elmo Avenue. The driver of the Toyota died instantly.
The force of the impact was so strong that it took the fire department hours to extract the driver from the wreck.
Hicks was sentenced to a year in jail and ten years of probation after he pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular homicide. He was also ordered to perform community service and work with the DPS on educational videos.
One such video is “Eight Seconds: One Fatal Distraction,” published by the Minnesota DPS on Oct. 29, 2020.
“I play that moment in my head multiple times a day. I can’t say I’m sorry enough. I wish I could take it all back. I wish I could change the events,” Hick says in the video.
The Department of Public Safety (DPS) released the video to put an accent on the dangers of distracted driving.
Texting and driving has been illegal since 2008 in Minnesota, the state where the accident happened. However, many people are still cited under the law. It has been expanded to prohibit holding a phone altogether while behind the wheel. There are also increasing fines for repeat offenders. Still, more than 20,800 drivers have been cited under the hands-free law in about a year of its introduction on Aug. 01, 2019
In 2020, distracted driving has contributed to 25 deaths in Minnesota, making it the leading cause of traffic fatalities in the state.
The DPS video “Eight Seconds: One Fatal Distraction” contains Samuel Hicks’ first public appearance since the fateful afternoon on Feb. 27, 2018. The video shows the shocking footage from the cabin camera of the truck. It also contains shots from the front camera and a street camera.
The truck’s cabin camera footage shows Hicks being distracted by his phone right before the impact. He rammed straight into Robert J. Bursik’s Toyota Scion. From the impact, the truck ended on top of the car and dragged it through the intersection.
In the video, Hicks says that he immediately ran back to Robert’s car, but knew it was too late to help.
Bursik was a 54 years old Amery, Wisconsin resident. He was the founder and owner of a nursery and greenhouse named Dragonfly Gardens. The community remembers him as a popular biology instructor at North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park. He also advised the Student Environmental Association at the college.
The death of Bursik was very hard on his family, who also give their comments in the DPS video. They say that the daughter didn’t have her father at her wedding. She didn’t have her father to witness his grandchild’s birth, his son’s college graduation. His youngest son, Ian, who was only four years old, ended up having to grow up without a father.
Hicks is a single dad with two children who allowed eight seconds of distraction by checking a single text message to lead to a life of regret, remorse, and sadness.
“I don’t think drivers actually realize how long they are looking at their phone, not paying attention to the road. You definitely don’t want to be that person who takes somebody else’s life.” Hicks says in the video.