Shock and awe as students treated to driving horror tales

�Nearly every hand shot up out of the darkness in reply to the question: “Who here is learning to drive?”

“Well, one in five of you will have a crash in your first year.”

This fact was met with an eerie silence as headlines were flashed across the screen of happy teenagers whose fate was there to shock.

These startling statistics opened the hard-hitting show, Safe Drive Stay Alive, designed to hammer home the importance of safe and careful driving.

The host introduced five speakers who have all seen the consequences of bad decisions before getting into a car.

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One of the most shocking stories came from Sgt Andy Baker, of the Metropolitan Police, who said: “I am so sick to the teeth of you teens having to die in my arms, crying for your mum and your body being so badly damaged that your parents can’t possibly identify it.”

The stunned sixth formers whose anticipation of an afternoon spent out of school was quickly replaced with sombre reflections on the cases discussed throughout the 60 minutes, sat in silence.

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‘Killing machine’

Sgt Baker said: “The war in Afghanistan would have to go on for 90 years to equal the same number of deaths on our roads every year.

“Since October 2001, there have been 382 due to war, a cause they believe in, but 53,000 are killed in 12 months on the roads – which could have been avoided.”

He added: “It’s up to you that we never meet when I’m working.”

For Peter Watson, of Ilford Fire Station, there is only one case he believed he should talk about.

“It was Valentine’s Day, and I was called out to a car that had gone through a 6ft fence and the driver was stood, handcuffed, sobbing next to a police car when I arrived.”

It was only after Peter looked further to see why an ambulance had been called, that he realised the car had landed on top of a young girl who had been walking down the road.

“He turned his form of transport into a killing machine and took her life. Don’t drink and drive,” he told the youngsters.

Sixteen and 17-year-olds from Caterham High School, Caterham Avenue, Clayhall and The Ursuline Academy, Morland Road, Ilford, were the first to attend the week-long show at the Kenneth More Theatre, Oakfield Road, Ilford, on Monday.

Around 3,000 students will have sat in on the dramatic show by tomorrow (Friday).

It aims to let the audience know that, as both drivers and passengers, they can influence the safety of themselves and others through hearing shocking personal accounts.

Redbridge Council’s road safety group manager Jane Arthur said: “This is only the second year but we had such a positive response after last year’s event. It really gets the sixth formers thinking and they are a hard group to reach.”

Crucial messages

Pc Jason Clauson has been a police officer for 26 years but has been a family liaison officer since 2003, specialising in road deaths.

He said: “It never gets any easier having to tell a family they have lost a loved one. This is why campaigns like this are so important.”

The crucial messages focused on speed, seatbelts, drink and drugs and mobile phones.

Sainsbury’s Gants Hill is sponsoring free copies of the Ilford Recorder for the event, which will be handed out today and tomorrow at the Kenneth More Theatre.

Manager of the store, Jordan Cain said: “We are happy to sponsor the event; it is an important subject and a very worthy scheme.”

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