Dying to drive

SHOCK tactics are being employed in Suffolk in a bid to prevent deaths and serious injuries on the road.Teenagers are being shown graphic pictures of people killed on the county's roads to make them think twice about breaking the law.

SHOCK tactics are being employed in Suffolk in a bid to prevent deaths and serious injuries on the road.

Teenagers are being shown graphic pictures of people killed on the county's roads to make them think twice about breaking the law. Crime reporter KATE GOODING went along to see if it works.

TOMMY Sawyer addresses the group of teenagers with an angry tone.

“I am ****** off,” he announces.

“We keep going to car accidents and cutting people out your age.

“Over Christmas last year we had eight fatalities in five weeks. “Do you think I go home at night and it doesn't worry me if I have cut someone out of a car or do you think I can tell you about every death I have been to?”

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Last year in Suffolk 343 people were killed or seriously injured on Suffolk's roads - many of them were young people who failed to wear seatbelts, drove at excess speed or drove without due care and attention.

One in three crashes involve men under the age of 20, and 17-year-old men are seven times more likely to have a crash than other groups.

A new and brutal one-day course called RoadKill aims to turn 'bad lads' good, and prevent the number of deaths on the county's roads. Hosted by Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, it shows teenagers the stark reality of road traffic collisions - in graphic and appalling detail. Shock tactics coupled with education try to change the attitudes of youngsters.

RoadKill focuses on youngsters who have committed motoring offences or are at a high risk of committing such offences. The teenagers begin the day with mixed attitudes - most agree that drink driving is wrong but many admit they don't wear seatbelts and believe that their driving ability is equal to or better than someone who has passed their test.

The firefighters work with Suffolk police, Suffolk Accident and Rescue Service (SARS), Ipswich Borough Council, Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Youth Offending Service and road crash charity RoadPeace, to change minds in their efforts to save lives.

Over six hours, the teenagers learn the law, and the facts about road crashes. This is combined with a focus on the human tragedy and suffering caused by such collisions.

The idea for the course began in Surrey, after a firefighter there called Rob Green, was involved in a collision with joyriders, which resulted in him losing both of his legs below the knee and suffering burns to his face and body.

His wife, who was a pillion rider, was killed.

His colleague Trevor Hill brought the course with him when he transferred to Suffolk, and it has been welcomed by other agencies across the county as well as his colleagues.

Most of the work by fire crews in the county is now at the scene of road crashes, and according to sub officer Marty Royal, crews seldom go a tour (two day shifts and two nights) without attending a road crash.

Over the last few years they have seen rising numbers of collisions in the county, and faced the harrowing task of cutting casualties and sometimes bodies from wreckage. The course includes a demonstration of this work, with two of the youths cut from the vehicle to show how frightening an experience it can be.

The work does not end there though, fire crews work at the scene with police and medics and each bring their own expertise and personal experiences to the RoadKill course.

They include former Suffolk Accident Rescue Service doctor Andy Mason, a specialist in trauma whose contribution to RoadKill is to show the youngsters a catalogue of graphic images of injuries sustained in collisions in Suffolk.

These include photographs of bodies embedded in wreckage, and on the operating table - enough to spark tears in some adult onlookers.

Dr Mason agrees they are disturbing, but says to the group: “Hopefully you will now make some better decisions than may be you have done before.”

He explains the cause of many of the injuries comes down to driving at excess speed, not wearing a seat belt, not having an airbag - and delivers his presentation without emotion as the 14 to 17-year-olds look on.

It may seem like a drastic approach, but Dr Mason explains there were 113 deaths of teenage drivers nationwide in 2000 and 151 in 2004.

Paul Grant of Suffolk youth offending service said the shock tactics do have an effect on the youngsters.

He said: “This group found it really interesting and it made them think about putting their seatbelts on and they said the programme works to make them slow down.

“There was shock but it makes them think when they are behind the wheel of a car that they could get seriously hurt. Before, when they were in a car, they thought they were immortal and couldn't get hurt but I think this shocks them with reality.

“In the morning they were saying 'I'm not going to wear a seatbelt' and this and that and after the afternoon, with the doctor's pictures, it put it into context and brought home what could really happen.

“The pictures are all of real people and cars that have been taken to pieces.

“If it stops one from going out and nicking cars and killing someone we have done a service.”

Mr Grant said one of the most effective sessions of the day came from RoadPeace, a charity dedicated to supporting road traffic victims and reducing danger on the roads.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service dedicate the course to Sibel Royer who was born on April 25, 2000 and died on July 9, 2004, and Adam Wall, who was born on June 22, 1978 and died on November 4, 2002.

N

Anglia Special Edition on ITV1 at 7.30pm tomorrow reports on the number of young people who die on our region's roads, and asks what can be done to reduce the figure.

Funda Royer and Bridget Wall spoke to the youngsters, about the impact losing their children in road crashes had had on their lives.

The speeches were not easy for either of the women but both feel they need to do something positive in memory of their loved ones.

Mrs Royer's four-year-old daughter Sibel was killed by a speeding driver in Barkingside, Essex two years ago.

She said: “The way that I deal with it (Sibel's death) on a daily basis, in order to be able to cope, I store it at the back of my mind and even now, sometimes I can't bear to go there.

“It is still so raw so it is really difficult to do this but afterwards I feel a sense of achievement.

“We can't make sense of what's happened but every time you talk about them and their life, you are keeping their memory alive. You are always living with this senseless loss.

“Speaking to people like this, who could potentially be responsible for a child's death, you are helping to prevent someone else from suffering.

“I can't allow Sibel's death to be in vain and I don't want her name to be forgotten or her memory to be forgotten. I feel her life was taken too soon but if I can help stop another child being taken from a family her death hasn't been in vain.

“I think this course is brilliant.”

Mrs Wall has similar reasons for wanting to take part.

Her 24-year-old son Adam was killed on the A47 near Wisbech four years ago when he was riding his motorcycle to his Downham Market home and was struck by a van.

She said: “If it (the course) saves a life or gets the message across then it is worthwhile.

“It is hard. You are trying not to cry as you remember everything and you are replaying the day Adam died but you want them (the youngsters) to know it is real, my son has lost his life and he hasn't done anything wrong. He hadn't been drinking, on drugs, or breaking the law, someone else broke the law and took his life.

“If one life is saved from this, their parents won't get the life sentence we are going through.”

And Mr Grant from the youth offending service is confident there will be a change in some of the youngsters.

He said: “I think the talk from RoadPeace got to them. They didn't know what to say because someone had lost a child through dangerous driving and I think they took what they said on board.

“It drew discussion within the car on the way home and we talked about the pictures and about what could happen.

“They said how in the past they had crashed cars and how they could have killed or seriously hurt.

“One of the 17-year-olds said he is going to do his test, get a licence and drive legally and that proved to me that they are thinking about what they have seen.”

343 people were killed or seriously injured in road traffic collisions in Suffolk in 2005.

Men are more likely to crash than women.

Women are more likely to pass their theory test than men with 81 per cent of women passing, compared to 75 pc of men.

Over the last few years traffic convictions for women have risen by 50 pc.

More than 1,000 people under the age of 24 die in road traffic collisions every year.

Men in their 20s are five times more likely to die in road traffic collisions than women in their 20s.

The most common cause of road traffic collisions is excess speed. Speed is a contributory factor in 1,000 deaths and 38,000 injuries each year.

One in six people do not bother to wear seat belts for short journeys.

The most common reason for people not to wear a seatbelt (according to what they tell police) is that they forgot.

Since 1983 seatbelts have reduced casualties and deaths by more than 600,000.

You cannot tell how much you can legally drink before you drive, it depends on sex, age, metabolism, stress levels, whether you have an empty stomach and the type of alcohol you drink.

If you are caught drink driving you will lose your licence for at least 12 months, face a possible fine of up to £5,000 and could be jailed for up to six months.

The same penalties are in place for driving under the influence of drugs, whether they are prescription drugs which affect driving ability or illegal drugs.

Penalty points for drink driving can stay on your driving licence for 11 years, other penalty points can stay on your licence for four years.

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