‘Drink drivers never have an excuse for the damage they cause or the risks they run’ – the story of a paramedic

AmbulancePrior to joining the police I worked on the frontline for the ambulance service for six years and found much of the work was very similar.

More than 80 percent of incidents were ‘social-issue’ related and very much out of the public eye, however there were frequent dealings with road traffic collision (RTC) patients and, on occasion, patients who would be regarded as ‘high-end’ trauma patients.

Working in Surrey, the ambulance service was less stretched than in the East of England and we would generally be the first on scene. I lost count of the number of drink drive related RTCs I attended but one in particular has stuck in mind.

We had just unloaded a ‘high-end’ trauma RTC patient at a trauma centre, and as we left the hospital another RTC came in about a mile up the same stretch of motorway we had only just attended.

As we entered the slip road we could see a fireball in lane two of the pitch black motorway. We parked away from the vehicle, put on some protective clothing and updated the control room stating it would be a tri-service incident; one involving all three emergency services.

A witness came running up to us saying that a male passenger was still in the vehicle, however the flames had taken such a hold it was impossible to tell what make or model of vehicle it was, let alone if anyone was inside.

We soon established that it was a possible fatal and proceeded to assess the driver who was now in the witness’s car on the hard shoulder. She was very drunk and had broken an arm, a leg and one of her collar bones and had severe concussion.

The witness again shouted about the male passenger, I told her I was sorry and she then realised why there was nothing being done.

As the fire service arrived I noticed a dark shape about 400 yards up the unlit motorway, once it was safe to pass on the hard shoulder, I drove our ambulance further along and found a van with minimal rear-end damage but ripples all the way down both sides of the metalwork. The driver had been ejected through the windscreen but was thankfully fully alert, despite suffering extensive chest and abdominal injuries.

During this time fuel, or possibly oil, had leaked across the water running off the burning car and had ignited, preventing other colleagues who had now arrived from joining me at the van for several minutes. The ejected driver was eventually placed on a trauma stretcher and blue-lighted straight to St George’s Hospital in London.

Thankfully, unbeknown to anyone, the male passenger suspected to still be in the burning car had left the car and ran off as soon as it crashed, and the ejected van driver made a full recovery. The drunk driver who had caused the collision was arrested and later charged with drink driving. We were all amazed how the collision had not been worse.

After the incident the driver had no recollection of what had happened or how lucky all involved had been. Drink drivers never have an excuse for the damage they cause or the risks they run, not only is there the obvious risk of harm from driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, there is also the life imprisonment for causing death while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

I personally feel it should be compulsory for offenders to be made to watch footage of relatives being informed of the death of their loved ones, and of offenders serving life sentences as a result of them causing death by drink driving.

Reoffending is common place when offenders haven’t caused a death by their actions and this is never due to their own control this is purely down to luck. Making them watch such footage may be what is needed to prevent them putting themselves and, more importantly, other people at risk again.

PC Adam Catling


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