I’m writing this from the train on the way back from a very high-quality presentation organised by Strathclyde Police and Road Safety Scotland. Like every organisation involved with road safety, the Strathclyde force is concerned about the number of newly qualified drivers coming to grief on their roads and this seminar was held to launch a new campaign, “Drive 4 Safety.“
Being neither a young person nor a parent I wasn’t in the target audience but I was very impressed by the event, especially the afternoon session which showcased a presentation developed by the South Ayrshire Community Safety Partnership called “Reckless Driving Wrecks Lives” – a short film about 4 friends, out in their car for a night and the consequences that unfold from simple decisions – seatbelt or not? – reckless overtake or the safe option? At key moments the film stopped and a member of the emergency services, a bereaved parent and a road crash survivor stepped forward to give their own testimony – what is it like stepping from A and E to meet a parent and tell them that their son couldn’t be saved? What is it like going out from the fire station on a wild, rainy night to try and cut a teenage girl free from the back seat of her boyfriend’s car? How do you come to terms with the fact that your decision not to wear a seatbelt one night has left you in a wheelchair for the rest of your life?
I always think “there but for the grace of God” on such occasions because I’ve been down a country road upside down in a Mini Metro which turned over in a corner – my friend behind the wheel wasn’t bad, or particularly reckless, or under the influence of anything except a mismatch between his ambition and his ability. In another world we weren’t lucky, didn’t land safely back on the wheels in an open field, I didn’t make it to 20, and it’s my dad speaking to an audience of solemn teenagers about how it feels to bury your child.
As the conference took pains to point out, getting a driving licence is a great thing. It’s the first step into the adult world. It’s freedom, it’s independence and it’s instant kudos with your peer group. Hopefully campaigns like this one will cut the number of people for whom it’s also a death warrant.